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 ... See full summary »
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Paris P. Pickard,
Anthony Michael Jones
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Summer in a new suburb outside Paris. Nothing to do but look at the ceiling. Marie, Anne and Floriane are 15. Their paths cross in the corridors at the local swimming pool, where love and desire make a sudden, dramatic appearance.
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
THE SECRETS (HA-SODOT) is not only a deeply satisfying film as a story that involves the viewer at every level, but it is also a reminder that certain customs/prejudices of inequality between the sexes still exist. Written with poetic distinction by Hadar Gairon and Avi Nesher (who also sensitively directs the film), THE SECRETS brings us into a world few know and even fewer understand. And it informs us of cultural differences while telling a griping and fascinating story in a way few films are able to imitate.
Israel, despite the enlightened quality of life the Jews enjoy, remains a place where the division between men and women may have been erased when it comes to military obligations, but where the orthodox religion very decidedly separates the roles of male and female. Noemi (Ania Bukstein) wishes to 'postpone' her obligated marriage in order to study spiritual matters at the seminary in the ancient Kabalistic seat of Safed. She convinces her father to allow her to study for a year and then return to fulfill her feminine obligation to become a wife and mother. Once enrolled at the seminary Noemi becomes friends with another young 'rebel' girl Michelle (Michal Shtamier) and as their friendship grows they discover a French woman Anouk (Fanny Ardant), apparently living a life of poverty supported by the kindness of the seminary despite her history of imprisonment for murder. Noemi and Michelle study the secrets of the Kabal and become determined to administer the cleansing rituals for Anouk who is dying from cancer. Noemi and Michelle bond and become emotionally and physically committed to each other. Once they have administered the cleansing to Anouk the two girls are expelled from the seminary. They part ways with the hope that they will be together on the outside. Yet once back in the milieu of their society, old customs and rules alter their relationship: tradition conquers.
Director Avi Nesher unfolds this delicate story with restraint and taste and encourages the viewer to identify with each of the characters, no matter whether they are male or female, confined in traditional viewpoints or enlightened. Every actor in this large cast is excellent, but the work by Ardant, Bukstein and Shtamier is exemplary. This is a very fine film deserving of a wide audience, In Hebrew and French with subtitles. Grady Harp
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