After a lukewarm marriage of over twenty years, a woman appeals to her husband's compassion to obtain the desirable divorce document in front of a court, which proves to be more challenging than she would expect.
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In Israel there is neither civil marriage nor civil divorce. Only rabbis can legitimize a marriage or its dissolution. But this dissolution is only possible with full consent from the husband, who in the end has more power than the judges. Viviane Amsalem has been applying for divorce for three years. But her husband Elisha will not agree. His cold intransigence, Viviane's determination to fight for her freedom, and the ambiguous role of the judges shape a procedure in which tragedy vies with absurdity, and everything is brought out for judgment, apart from the initial request.Written by
Vivian wears only one big ring on her forth finger of her left hand throughout most of the movie. Somewhere in the middle of the movie, Vivian is shown sitting at the bench in the "court" and there is also a second ring on her second finger. See more »
Why are you making me run around in circles? Why, Your Honor? Why? Why have I come in and out for years now and nothing's changed? Why? You can't force him to divorce nor to appear, and you can't this or that, and what about me? When will you see me? When I'm too exhausted to stand before you? When? If it were up to you, it could go on for 10 years. I could drop dead in front of you and all you'd see was him! But nobody is above the law. There's a God and there's justice and He'll judge you as ...
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Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (2014) is an Israeli film written and directed by the sister-and-brother team of Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz. Ronkit Elkabetz also stars in the movie. She plays Viviane Amsalem, who is married to Elisha Amsalem (Simon Abkarian), from who she wants a divorce. In order to be divorced from Elisha, Viviane must obtain a Gett--the approval of her husband for the divorce. That is the basic plot of the movie. In fact, it's the only plot of the movie. Can Viviane obtain the divorce that she so desperately wants.
I learned--after watching the film--that Gett is actually the third movie in a trilogy about this couple. Although it would probably make sense to watch the trilogy in chronological order, Gett stands on its own as a powerful and complete film. The script contains references to earlier events, but they are presented clearly enough to allow us to understand them.
All of the actions take place in the rabbinical courtroom in Israel, and in the waiting room of the courtroom. There's not a single shot of anything outside the courtroom. It's a truly claustrophobic setting, especially because the courtroom and waiting room are devoid of any color or any objects of interest, other than the actors.
Both of the leading actors are superb. Our heart goes out to Viviane Amselem, who simply wants a divorce. She appears to be a fine person--honest, honorable, and someone who has made a real effort to be and remain a good wife. However, the marriage for her is dead, and she wants to leave the marriage and move on with her life. She has wanted this for five years, and still she is not divorced.
Her husband, Elisha, is not a cardboard cutout villain, which would actually make things easier for us as viewers. He is a handsome, intelligent, well-spoken man. However, he appears emotionally cold and aloof. I wonder if he might have a condition somewhere along the autism spectrum. Certainly, his interactions with others--the judges, his wife, the witnesses--are uniformly cold and almost robotic.
What we learn is that there is no such thing as a "civil court" for divorces in Israel. The rabbinical court is the only court. In the United States, a highly observant Jewish woman might go to a rabbinical court to obtain a Gett. If her husband refuses to give her a Gett, she can't be divorced from a religious point of view. However, if she is desperate enough, she has the choice of going to a civil court and getting a legal divorce. (This may not be considered an option by a highly observant woman, but she has the legal option, whether she chooses to use it or not. In Israel, she doesn't have the legal option.)
What I took away from this film is that the Israeli legal system is broken in respect to divorce. The rabbis can ponder. They can quote from the Talmud. They can subpoena witnesses, they can freeze someone's bank account or credit cards. They can cajole, they can reason, they can fume. What they can't do is make a husband give his wife a Gett.
This film was shown at the excellent Dryden Theatre in Rochester, NY as part of the matchless Rochester International Jewish Film Festival. Unfortunately, we were unable to be at the theater that night, so we bought the movie on DVD. It worked very well on DVD--it's basically a courtroom drama, so there's not any scenery or action shots that would do better on a large screen.
Note: A booklet was Included in the DVD, which contained commentary about the film. That's how I learned about the two earlier movies: To Take a Wife (2004) and Seven Days (2008).
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