The Little Traitor

Alfred Molina (left) and Ido Port play a British soldier in Palestine and the Jewish boy he befriends.
Alfred Molina (left) and Ido Port play a British soldier in Palestine and the Jewish boy he befriends.
Posted: April 23, 2010

Based on the Amos Oz novella "Panther in the Basement,"

The Little Traitor

muddles through the story of a boy's coming of age in a nascent nation.

The man-child is Proffy (short for "Professor"), a Jewish lad on the brink of adolescence in 1947 Palestine under the British Mandate. The nation is Israel, on the brink of creation. The panther in the basement reasonably might refer either to Proffy's budding sexuality or to stealthy Jewish resistance fighters rising up against British occupation.

To maintain domination over Jews and Arabs in Palestine, the British impose a strict curfew of 6 p.m. Proffy and his pals, who play Jew vs. Brit as American kids once played cowboys and Indians, dream of ambushing the British soldiers.

Instead, a Cockney soldier, Sgt. Dunlop (nicely played by Alfred Molina in this otherwise choppy film), detains Proffy one night when he is out after curfew.

Improbably, the pint-size insurgent and the 10-gallon soldier befriend each other. This incites Proffy's friends to denounce him as a traitor.

The audience, however, is persuaded to see the entente between enemies as foreshadowing Israel's creation. The film's conclusion suggests a hope for entente between Jew and Arab.

All in all, a resonant theme, poorly played.

- Carrie Rickey

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