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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
Gets _way_ further inside the world of the "Orthodox Jew" than anything I've ever even heard about before. The director and some of the actors really are Orthodox, so the portrayals of both home life and ceremonies that are seldom photographed are truly accurate, not just informed guesses. Yet this is not an "ethnographic record", it's a feature film. And the cinematography is excellent, about as far from an "amateur home movie" as you could possibly get.
The glass-half-full description is "a character study" - the glass-half-empty description is "slow boiler". Those prone to getting fidgety will probably be tested beyond their endurance. The psychological nuances aren't trivial - this film is the official submission of Israel to the Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy Awards.
The treatment of women looks "old-fashioned" to us: separate rooms, hair covering, emergency health care workers restricted if they might see something they normally wouldn't ...all the horror stories we've heard. This deeper look though shows us the considerable adaptation and flexibility around those rules-- architecture modified so those separate rooms aren't all that separate, a spinster covering her hair on the advice of her rebbe even though she'd never been married so people wouldn't ask so many awkward questions, the wife controlling the money in a rebbe's household, arranging clandestine peeks at potential mates via cellphone. The clumps of women standing in doorways reminded me powerfully of the clumps of servants in those Manor House period piece films like Gosford Park. The blocking of access to females in physical distress reminds me of stories out of Saudi Arabia. And the photo I saw later of a "fashion designer" Muslim hair covering looked so much like what these Orthodox women wear I did a double-take.
No easy answers, no "good guys" and "bad guys". There are both pros and cons. Downsides include difficulty finding a marriage partner, great difficulty keeping widows and widowers within the community, birth defects apparently from genetic inbreeding, and almost complete loss of input into the direction of the surrounding society/economy. Upsides include very strong support from both family and friends, and unparalleled community closeness. Where else do non-relatives easily call other adults by their pet names when the going gets rough? And how often do family friends feel free to proffer a word of contrary advice at any time? And although someone's decision to move away is often somewhat painful to others, where else would people literally rather die?
Beforehand I was ready to keep my distance and laugh at "those silly people". But watching it I realized the film applies equally well to _all_ communities that are "in the world but not of the world": fundamentalist Christians; even hippies who've resigned themselves to having zero political influence. There's a whole lot of space in the middle on the line with "modern society" on one end and "a cult" on the other end. Although on the surface this film is about a particular world that's about as familiar to me as living on Mars, the deeper story of gaining community but losing interaction with the surrounding society/economy still has me ruminating days later.
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