Review: 'Golden Voices'

John Thomas
NADIA KUCHER, Vitali Voskoboinkov, Maria Belkin and Vladimir Friedman in “Golden Voices.”

They first met in Moscow at a screening of a Fellini film. They fell in love at the screening of another Fellini film. Victor (Vladimir Friedman) and Raya (Mariya Belgian) weren’t there only to enjoy the films but to work on them. Their job was to dub the actor’s voices from Italian into Russian. They eventually married, becoming Mr. and Mrs. Frenkel known as the golden voices of the Soviet film dubbing industry.

When communism fell from power in the 90s Jewish people were allowed to leave Russia. The Frenkels decided to do just that – they immigrated to Israel to begin a new life. They could see little future in dubbing films – it was time to start over.

Their nephew met them at the Tel Aviv airport and took them to the apartment he had arranged for them. The place was not to their liking nor one they could afford, but they accepted his kind offer and moved in.

With the expense of the new apartment and cost of living in Israel, they needed to find work. But what kind of work could they find? They were both in their 60s – he overweight, and neither of them speaking Hebrew. Reading through want ads in the newspaper, Raya came across an ad for a Russian speaking woman with a pleasant voice seeking employment.

She telephoned the listed phone number and Dvora (Evelin Hagoel) answered. They chat a while and Dvora found Raya’s voice acceptable and invited her for a face-to-face interview.

The interview address is in a scruffy, industrial part of town so Victor escorts Raya to the front door and waits outside. During the interview Dvora explains the ground rules that are to be strictly followed. “Assume a new name and identity. Never reveal your real name and under no circumstances agree to meet with a client. In your case” she adds, “never divulge your age.”

Both women agree to a two-day trial period. Once outside, Raya is happy to tell her husband that she now has work selling perfume over the phone. Quite a stretch of truth from her real job as a phone-sex operator.

With Raya having a job and Victor still looking for one, he sinks into a state of depression, becoming increasingly more distant from his wife. On the other hand, after some days answering calls, she finds her job fun and occasionally exciting. After weeks of answering calls she becomes the most requested woman at the service.

One of her most frequent callers has a debilitating stutter. He can barely express himself until after spending some time with Raya, his speech becomes normal. The calming words spoken by her with her silken voice remove all anxiety he feels communicating with others. He wants to set up a face-to-face meeting with her – if only a brief one.

Raya is as firm in saying no as the former stutterer is in saying yes. He proposes they meet in a public place. There is a central park with a sculpture in the center of the main pathway. He will be waiting there at a prescribed time – she can meet with him or not. Unable to resist the temptation of at least seeing him, Raya appears at the client’s suggested time.

She is not at the sculpture but in a cafe with windows facing the park. As she sits watching with her cup of coffee, he arrives with a bouquet of roses. She is trying to decide if she should venture down to meet him or remain where she is.

Golden Voices is directed by Evgeny Ruman (Credits: The Damned, The Man in the Wall), runs 88 minutes and is a “should see” production.


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