Director Pavel Lungin works on a scene with actors Yulia Peresild (Sarah) and Harvey Keitel (Abraham). ESAU is an English-language debut of the acclaimed Russian-French director. Three of Lungin’s previous films played in the Cannes Film Festival with Taxi Blues (1990) winning him Best Director Award.
Writer Meir Shalev visits the set. ESAU is based on Shalev’s eponymous novel and is the first adaptation of the beloved Israeli author for screen who completed more than 30 works of fiction, nonfiction and children’s literature.
Harvey Keitel and Meir Shalev engage in a conversation during lunch break. The role of Shalev’s patriarch, Abraham Levy, is a rare occasion that Keitel gets to play a Jewish character and not an American gangster he became known for from such classics as Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets (1973) and Taxi Driver (1976), and Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994).
From left: Meir Shalev, Mark Ivanir (Jacob), Harvey Keitel (Abraham) and Pavel Lungin. In an interview with Haaretz, Ivanir admits that “the triumvirate of Keitel, Shalev and Lungin made the project a no-brainer” for him
Pavel Lungin stages a scene with Kseniya Rappoport (Cheznous) and Yulia Peresild (Sarah). The two actresses are currently the most recognizable names in the Russian cinema and theatre.
Film crew observes the shooting of a scene at a hair salon built from scratch on location. Majority of the film was shot at the kibbutz west of Jerusalem, where the ruins of abandoned barracks were turned into an idyllic rural town by production designer Sergey Fevralev and art director Shahar Baradon.
Pavel Lungin and Omri Raveh (young Abraham) discuss the upcoming scene in the bakery. Raveh is one of the best up-and-coming Israeli actors found by casting director Limor Shmila. ESAU marks his debut role in the cinema.
Director of photography Fred Kelemen (right) instructs gaffer Galy Reshef on the lighting for the scene with Lion Ravich (young Jacob). Kelemen’s previous work includes The Turin Horse (2011) by the maverick Hungarian director Béla Tarr.
Kseniya Rappoport (Cheznous) rehearses a scene in the bakery. ESAU is Rappoport’s second collaboration with Lungin following his critically-acclaimed The Queen of Spades (2016).
Loaves of bread made for the film. ESAU began from Shalev’s desire to write a novel about a family of bakers. As a student at Hebrew University who worked nights, he was tempted by the scent of Angel Bakery, where he would often stop to buy challah in the wee hours of the morning.
Property master works on dough. Master baker Uri Scheft created a special sort of bread for ESAU and personally supervised all breadmaking scenes .
Pavel Lungin prepares a scene with Niv Leket (10-year old Esau) and Ami Weinberg (optometrist). Film’s art crew managed to get a very old optometrist’s set from a third-generation doctor specially to be used in this scene.
Pavel Lungin rehearses a scene with Niv Leket (10-year old Esau), Amir Tessler (10-year old Jacob) and Yulia Peresild (Sarah). Tessler previously appeared in Natalie Portman’s The Tale of Love and Darkness (2015) playing Israeli writer Amos Oz in his childhood.
Shira Haas (Leah) goofs off with her scene partners in between takes. The actress could have last been seen in Foxtrot (2017), Israel’s submission to the Academy Awards in that year that made the shortlist.
Set dresser Neriya Ban Ari Ido prepares the set. ESAU takes place over two time periods and in some cases the set had to be flipped overnight.
Chief Make-Up Artist Orly Ronen applies finishing touches on Kseniya Rappoport (Cheznous). Ronen is a six-time nominee for the Israeli Film Academy Awards, claiming the trophy twice.