The ancient story of a man and a woman looking for happiness.

Films about the life of the ultra-Orthodox community are made in the low numbers and I can remember only one such significant film of this kind, (the slightly better) Ha-Ushpizin. The writer-director Rama Burshtein’s drama about arranged marriage is set in an Orthodox Hassidic community in Tel Aviv. The first thing we notice about Aunt Hanna (Razia Israeli) is the defiantly strong set of her face and the directness of her gaze; it is not until we have spent some time in her company that we realise she has no arms – a factor which is entirely secondary to her strength of character. Most ultra-orthodox religions maintain a strict gender divide, relegating women to second class citizenship. Well done.

I spent a career trying to attain that level of quiet perfection in my own work. Rama Burshtein's first feature film Lemale et ha'halal / Filling the Void was awarded the prize for the best Israeli movie in 2012 and yet, it belongs to a genre which is quite unique in the landscape of the Israeli cinema.
An intelligent and moving examination of the possibilities of personal freedom within the strict confines of religion and tradition.

The Israeli film Lemale et ha'halal was shown in the United States with the title "Fill the Void" (2012). "Fill the Void," however, has more in common with a '50s Doris Day comedy in which wedlock is a woman's crowning achievement and spinsterhood is to be pitied. Gets _way_ further inside the world of the "Orthodox Jew" than anything I've ever even heard about before. Burshtein cuts to the wedding ceremony, where her head is covered with a white sheet; she is quite literally blinded to what follows, while the families celebrate. She knows how people act, what they say, how they celebrate, and how they mourn. No problem, I was happy to "help." Still, tradition still rules the roost. The existing Open Comments threads will continue to exist for those who do not subscribe to Independent Premium. 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. Marriages are arranged and a woman's outside options are limited, as marriage is a central and crucial moment in their lives. These actors, these beautiful actors, managed to convey depths of emotion that ripped my heart out and yet done with such perfect simplicity. Not a foreign language film, which is the more politically sensitive appellation used by awards-givers, but a foreign film. Nonsense! Awards Her dilemma is treated with kindness and respect and, in about sixty seconds, shows a positive side to the tight-knit community living that only exists in 2013 among the religious fringes. It's a fine and complex finale to a deceptively enriching film. To its credit “Fill the Void” merely shows, and does not proselytize. | There is a further layer to Burshtein's creation; that of the Orthodox community's peculiarly parallel presence within the secular world.
In fact, Burshtein goes out of her way to show — as is the case in many old-world cultures — that despite initial appearances, in this society the fairer sex ultimately calls the shots. Please continue to respect all commenters and create constructive debates. But...wait! Why seize upon Eastern Europe c. 1650? Matrimony gets little respect from Hollywood these days, save for the bawdy, farcical variety found in "Bridesmaids" and the execrable "The Big Wedding." I was absolutely riveted within seconds. Of importance to note, Rama Burshtein comes form this community and her understanding of all the permutations is obvious.

When her older sister Esther (Renana Raz) dies in childbirth, plans change. Surely I was the epitome of "the stranger living among you"!

With skilled deployment of long takes, lingering close-ups, repeated musical cues and meticulous lighting, director-writer Rama Burshtein — a Hasidic insider herself — never allows the intimacy to become too stifling, however. That tidbit is left out of the film, but there are notable moments that contextualize this group. A low-key film, but totally compelling nonetheless.

But as a member of such a community, Ms. Burshtein's intent is not to criticize such a community but to show its humanity, warts and all.

It’s a measure of her success that the settings, dress and rituals soon become secondary. Want an ad-free experience?Subscribe to Independent Premium. Reviewed in the United States on September 19, 2015. Like the protagonists of the Jane Austen novels which Burshtein cites as a primary influence, these women live within a society in which their options are limited by rigidly enforced rules, and yet it's their choices, emotions, conflicts and resolutions which drive and define the narrative. They should have shown what happens in the bathroom, with camera moving and close-ups of the actors. Create a commenting name to join the debate, There are no Independent Premium comments yet - be the first to add your thoughts, There are no comments yet - be the first to add your thoughts.

as well as to Orthodox Jews--why pick a period in time (the 17th c. seems to be a favorite) and pretend you still lived in 1650? Should she pursue her long-treasured dream in which a carefully planned union with an equally inexperienced young man had always been the goal? She is not just choosing for herself and potential partner but her choice is central to the happiness or unhappiness of relatives and friends—a situation of which she is acutely aware. Gentle humor creeps in occasionally, such as when an elder rabbi is required to give an insistent lonely older woman advice on buying a new stove. The movie focuses prominently on her not only figuratively but literally. the younger sister had many of the characteristics of my was almost like dating him! | Are you sure you want to mark this comment as inappropriate? Yuk. First published on Sun 15 Dec 2013 00.07 GMT. Indeed, “Fill the Void”'s sole merit is its observational nature. Not a single note is phony here. A sequence in which Shira becomes lost in a melancholic fugue while playing the accordion (her name means "song" in Hebrew) is particularly powerful, part of a complex tapestry of interweaving lives in which music plays an integral role. [Rama] Burshtein oppressively captures the claustrophobia of a close-knit community where every daily act - from opening a door to eating - is a religious ritual. The story takes place strictly within the Orthodox community with no interactions at all with the secular world. Indeed, the omnipresent Hasidic ritual seems to set this story somewhat back in time, away from the modern world, closer to the conventions of the past than the myriad opportunities of the present. Was this really such a great idea? Call it brainwashing, call it the bliss of a predetermined hierarchy, just call it far the hell away from me.

Not so with her male counterpart; when his emotional scene came, I'm sorry to report there were people in the audience who laughed.

They stand at either end of the room and Shira stares blankly into space, underlining the irony inherent in the film's title. Meanwhile, in contrast to the doughy awkward bachelors in the running for Shira's hand, Klein's handsome visage — reminiscent of a more refined Sacha Baron Cohen — shines through his beard and tendrils. The filmmaker also lets her female characters demonstrate their impact on the community in less obvious ways than the male figures.

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