The Pardes

In a time of suffering and pain, it must be the dream of many to confront the Divine, if it exists, and to probe it on the meaning of everything and beyond. The Forbidden Orchard is a spiritual Garden where the absolute resides. Here, one can directly face the truth and question it.
A vague but enormous dark figure, framed and cut by an outline silhouette of light is hammering a piece of white hot metal in a dark room, lit by a roaring furnace. His hammering jars and echoes, creating a booming rhythm. Hundreds of sparks spit out of the solid metal as it is struck. The view gets closer to the sparks as the sound becomes more intense. Eventually we catch a spark and enter inside. Inside is an entire world.
It is 136 CE, a people are under terrible persecution of Roman butchery. Four friends, who lead the community, embark on a mystical journey to the Garden. They aim to find answers to the most unanswerable questions. As the four men stand at the entrance, AKIVA BEN YOSEPH stops, looks away and thinks back.
As a boy, Akiva helps to support his family. A passing Roman garrison kills his parents. As Akiva cries himself to sleep, he dreams of a beautiful Garden, where he is free. As a young man, Akiva works as a shepherd for KALBA SAVUA, who has a beautiful daughter named RACHEL. Akiva and Rachel, after regularly meeting in the field, fall in love. Rachel inspires Akiva to become learned and pays for his studies. At the academy, Akiva throws himself into learning. He uses his genius to extract new teachings from ancient scriptures, to the great scepticism of many of his colleagues. One of these individuals is ELISHA BEN AVUYAH, who challenges Akiva to a debate. Whilst out, Akiva and Elisha rescue two students from a highway robbery. They are the eccentric SHIMON BEN ZOMA and the saintly SHIMON BEN AZZAI. The four become close and form a unique study group. Akiva again dreams of the Garden coming ever closer.
Meanwhile in Rome, there is a new emperor, PUBLIUS AELIUS HADRIANUS. Hadrian becomes a brilliant governor, but he bears a dark side and he is feared. Hadrian is a man of mixed sexual interests. He enjoys good-looking young men as well as adulteries with married women. Hadrian has an unhappy marriage to VIBIA SABINA, who whilst pregnant performs an abortion upon herself to not produce another monster. Hadrian's later attention centres on the young male, Antinous, who subsequently feels the intensity of Hadrian’s obsession. Whilst sailing on the Nile, Antinous mysteriously disappears. Hadrian grieves deeply for Antinous, and names a nearby city Antinoopolis. Back in Rome, the public and high council deem the whole situation unbefitting an emperor. Sensing this public opinion, Hadrian turns toward Jerusalem.
Hadrian enacts anti-Jewish measures and relations between the Jews and the Romans deteriorate into minor violence. Hadrian, bitter at Jewish intransigence, seeks to build a new city, Aelia Capitolina, on old Jerusalem. The Jews are distraught at the desecration of their holy temple. Violence erupts. In response, Jews are butchered. Akiva and others assemble a strong Jewish rebellion with SHIMON BAR KOCHBA, a charismatic warrior. Bar Kochba rallies the people and massacres the famous 12th legion of the Roman army. Jerusalem is liberated and Akiva proclaims Bar Kochba as the Messiah who is to deliver the Jewish people to redemption. Hadrian is furious. A massive army marches against the rebels. On the hills overlooking the fighting Akiva meets Hadrian. Hadrian does not relent, there is nothing but him. The Jews are annihilated and Bar Kochba is captured and torn to pieces. Akiva’s wife, Rachel, is amongst those killed. Akiva, too late to save her, is shattered. Akiva is seen screaming alone in the Garden. Hadrian enacts strict anti-Jewish laws and erects a temple and statue of himself on the Temple Mount. Akiva and the friends fall into depression and lose hope. The friends persuade Akiva to enable entry to the Garden, to search for answers. Akiva warns them of what they will see and that they will be intensely challenged. Each of them enter the upper realms. Ben Azzai looks, becomes engulfed and dies. Ben Zoma looks and becomes warped and demented. He is alone wandering in a labyrinthine forest. Elisha’s encounter causes him to see two forces, one good and one bad – confusing the metaphor with the reality. Elisha loses his faith and becomes a heretic. Akiva, unlike the others, does not directly challenge the energy in the Garden. Akiva departs in peace; he is the only one to survive unscathed.
When Hadrian returns to Rome, his health has deteriorated markedly from the stress of the Jewish War. He is now lonely and despondent. Few remain to whom he feels close. In his final days, Hadrian imagines a distant Garden but he cannot reach it. Hadrian collapses and dies. In the penultimate scene, Akiva has a vision the future. Roman executioners are massacring many, including Akiva. He sees his own flesh being torn using iron pincers. He is awoken. He looks up at the sky and he goes on his way, down a long straight road. In the final scene Akiva is there with Rachel, lying on her in the garden. Akiva’s family are nearbye. They are all laughing and are happy. The view moves out to a place of peace.



Directorial Vision

The Forbidden Orchard is designed to be epic. Therefore, the scenes will have spectacular scenery, massive armies and huge battles, the Ancient City of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple as well as the glory of Ancient Rome.
The camera will fly like a bird over these amazing sights.

Transposed to this will be the individual lives of the main characters. Their lives are a microcosm of the values and conflicts of the time and we will see their tiny idiosyncrasies and close up images.

Lastly, is the image of the Forbidden Orchard – the distant and mystical place that the Rabbis visit and dream of. This is made up of glowing trees, sparkling insects and dust, floating marble waves, white light and a spectrum of colours like that seen on the surface of an oil slick. This is a special place and requires a vision unlike anything seen before in cinema.