Richard Gere spouts a whole lot of Kabbalah in Bee Season, a cinematic oddity based on the novel by Myla Goldberg. Sadly for directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel, this winds up being "a drama about spirituality that is devoid of spirit". Its blend of theological musings and family dysfunction left many critics nonplussed and attracted a smaller audience than Synagogue on Sunday.
If It Ain't Broke...
Two five-minute featurettes attempt to demystify Bee Season, which is nearly impossible since mysticism is its very reason for being. Nonetheless the brightest minds from Ivy League universities offer their assessments in The Essence Of Bee Season. For example, the head of undergraduate studies at Columbia thinks the story is about, "The way that you break something into small pieces in order to then connect them together." Hmm... Richard Gere breaks it down a little more in The Making Of Bee Season saying that, "We all need fixing - internal fixing, external fixing, mending, healing." Yeah, we know what fixing means! Apparently this all links with the Ancient Jewish theory about the universe as a mess of fragments because God overfilled his jug and dropped it, or something... In the end, it remains very abstract stuff with neither featurette offering any practical insights into the actual making of the film.
Scott McGehee and David Siegel don't add anything to the bigger picture in their audio commentary. Instead they focus on particular scenes and talk about Flora (Eliza Naumann) receiving "God's light" or else exuding a "divine glow" at various stages in the story. The closest they come to expressing their intentions is in referring to the open-plan arrangement of the Naumann household. Apparently the layout reflects the interconnectedness and simultaneous separateness of the family unit, which in turn reflects the fragmented universe. More obviously they tried to convey this dynamic in the interaction between characters, by "working through the movie with the idea of people watching each other, each member of the family gauging the other members of the family and not really understanding exactly what's going on". Well, we get that last part anyway.
To Bee, Or Not To Bee
McGehee and Siegel provide optional commentary for six deleted scenes that find the Naumann's trying to connect to each other in futile ways, eg Mrs Naumann (Julitette Binoche) indulges in some guilty sex and shoplifting shoes - a bit like Sex And The City, but without the laughs. The directors also have a chuckle at a dream sequence where Aaron (Max Minghella) dreams about kissing a fat Buddhist monk and wakes up to find Kate Bosworth (as Chali) on his face. Apparently this was Minghella's "least favourite scene", but we can't imagine Bosworth was too jazzed about it either...
In the final analysis: if the world really is a mess of fragments then it neatly explains this scatterbrained selection of extras.