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In The Secrets, two brilliant young women discover their own voices in a repressive orthodox culture where females are forbidden to sing, let alone speak out. Naomi, the studious, devoutly religious daughter of a prominent rabbi, convinces her father to postpone her marriage for a year so that she might study at a Jewish seminary for women in the ancient Kabalistic seat of Safed. Naomi's quest for individuality takes a defiant turn when she befriends Michelle, a free-spirited and equally headstrong fellow student. When the pair encounters a mysterious, ailing foreigner with a disturbing past named Anouk (the iconic French actress Fanny Ardant) they begin a risky journey into forbidden realms. In the hopes of easing her suffering, Naomi and Michelle secretly lead Anouk through a series of Kabalistic cleansing rituals. The process opens up overwhelming new horizons for the girls who find themselves caught between the rigid male establishment they grew up in, and the desire to be true to... Written by
There are so many poorly made, self-conscious and annoying so-called art house films out there, and then there is this gem of a movie. I sincerely hope it gets a U.S. art cinema release. It's not often I am still remembering the characters, the passion of the heart, the location and faith awakening all in one post-viewing memory.
The actors are all uniformly true to to their characters, and really excellent at involving us in their personal tests of faith and moral dilemma. The orthodoxy of their faith, positioned against a seeping modern day sensibility surrounds us as effectively as the location photography transports us (American audiences) to a world we know little about.
A friend told me to see "this lesbian movie." It's not that. It's a story of girls in a repressed society dealing with their first sexual awakening and affection confused bonding as a portion of the story of immersion in their faith and how it transforms their relationship with each other in their involvement with a strange, mystical and salvation-seeking non-Jew.
This is a uniformly excellent film. In the openness of the locations and the beautiful music, the closeness of the camera work puts us in a claustrophobic male-dominated society, just at a moment in time when women are establishing their place in their religion and in their society.
I spend a lot of time in theaters. It's not often I come away with a feeling I have truly experienced a romance with faith, with the human heart and with the written word so totally in one film.
Congratulations to the filmmakers and actors. I sincerely hope this movie finds its best audience in American theaters.
(I am not Jewish and was deeply moved and intrigued by the religious material presented)
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