Downtown Jerusalem experienced a brief trip back to the era of World War II Monday afternoon, thanks to the cast and crew of Natalie Portman’s film “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” based on Amos Oz’s autobiographical novel.

Much of the movie, directed by Portman from a screenplay she wrote, and which was translated back into Hebrew by novelist Assaf Gavron, takes place in Jerusalem, Oz’s birthplace. And, accordingly, the cast, which included a group of elementary school-age children, were dressed in 1940s-era clothing, with wool knee-length shorts for the boys and pinafore dresses for the girls.

They sat down at 12:30 for a typical Israeli lunch of schnitzel, rice and chopped salad at checkered-tableclothed tables in a courtyard off Agrippas Street, a block away from the Mahane Yehuda food market. But there was no sign of Portman tucking into her own plate of schnitzel and rice.

Riyadh, the parking attendant at the Eliash lot where the film crew was situated, said he’d laid eyes on Portman that morning.

Trailers, tents and catering trucks parked at the Eliash lot (photo credit: Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

Trailers, tents and catering trucks parked at the Eliash lot (photo credit: Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

“I went and had coffee with the crew,” he said, grinning. “And there she was, getting her makeup done. She’s really beautiful. That’s all I need for breakfast.”

Natalie Portman (Courtesy)

Natalie Portman (Courtesy)

Portman, 32, has been back and forth to Israel over the last few months to set up the production of her film adaptation. She plays Oz’s mother — she will speak Hebrew in the film — and asked the acclaimed author for the rights to the novel six years ago. He agreed because of his “high esteem for her work,” Oz told Reuters.

Portman received NIS 1.6 million (some $450,000) from the Jerusalem Development Authority to make the movie in the capital.

Like Oz, Portman was born in Jerusalem, but she moved to the US with her parents when she was three.