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A devout 18-year-old Israeli is pressured to marry the husband of her late sister. Declaring her independence is not an option in Tel Aviv's ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community, where religious law, tradition and the rabbi's word are absolute.Written by
Sundance Film Festival
Over the last dozen or so years, no less than seven films have been made about the orthodox religious community in Israel. These films are:
Forbidden Love (1999); Kadosh (1999); Bat Kol (Inner Voice) (2002); Ushpizin (2004); My Father, My Lord (2007); The Secrets (2007); Eyes Wide Open (2009).
All these films were made by non-religious or at least non-orthodox film makers, and then along came Fill the Void. Its director and scriptwriter, Rama Burshtein, is an orthodox woman who is also a film maker.
Which raises the question whether this new film is more authentic than the previous ones, whether it portrays the orthodox community more faithfully. It should be understood that the orthodox communities in Israel are tightly-knit units, abhorring the outside, modern Western way of life which they perceive as decadent, immoral and corruptive. They still dress as did their ancestors in the Shtetl in Eastern Europe centuries ago, talk mostly Yiddish among themselves and of course, inter-marry only within their milieu.
Fill the Void is indeed about this latter issue, the question of marriage. The questions raised by the protagonists may seem quaint and even amusing to us, but seem of paramount importance to them, as if no other issues occupy their closed life.
This reviewer has no way of assessing the veracity of the facts and can only rely on subjective impressions. The film "rings true", feels true, and the fact that some of the actors come from a religious background adds to the feeling. Viewers might sneer at the seemingly irrelevant questions facing those "strange" people, but the acting convincingly conveys the sentiment that we are indeed dealing with a grave situation.
I came out of the theater thinking not about the heroine, blandly played by Hila Feldman, or about the way she handles her private demons and dilemmas, but about the strange, foreign, incomprehensible community living not a mile away from my house in the same city, yet separated from me by an unbridgeable chasm.
A disturbing movie.
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