Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Fill the Void

Israel’s official submission for Oscar’s 2012 Best Foreign Language Film is a stunning melodrama centered on an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and prospects for a tragedy-fueled arranged marriage between a teen and older man. The film is also a nice marriage of affecting art and impressive craft.

May 22, 2013

-By Doris Toumarkine


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1377658-Fill_Void_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Here’s “men in black” of a different kind for filmgoers, as first-time feature director Rama Burshtein’s characters in Fill the Void, including its females, are highly conservative, humorless and anti-feminist. The film’s Hasidic Tel Aviv community (Burshtein shot on location) is certainly no North Korea, but a lot of moviegoers will be curious to penetrate this well-protected, little-seen corner of Jewish life as a foreign land within a foreign land.

Burshtein’s stunning debut proves that access isn’t just gold for documentary filmmakers. As a Jew who became ultra-Orthodox as an adult, she was able to go inside Tel Aviv’s ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community for her story, at the heart of which is beautiful 18-year-old Shira (Hadas Yaron), excited about her in-the-works engagement to a suitable man from a good family.

But before the engagement can proceed further, tragedy strikes. Shira’s older married sister Esther (Ranana Raz) dies on the Purim holiday giving birth to her first child, who survives. Especially devastated by this bleak turn is Shira’s mother Rivka (Irit Sheleg), also further crushed when she learns that Esther’s widowed husband Yochay (Yiftach Klein) may be taking the motherless infant son to Belgium, where his family has found a suitable mate who refuses to relocate to Israel. Desperate to keep the baby near her as he’s all that remains of Esther, Rivka takes action and proposes that Yochay instead marry Shira.

Interestingly, the influence of Shira’s rabbi father Aharon (Chaim Sharir) in this dilemma that swirls in so male-dominated a world is minimized. As the local religious leader, Aharon’s foremost duty, according to Purim custom, and what occupies his time is to hand out charity to the community’s needy.

Shira’s growing conflict is that, in spite of her enthusiasm for the previously arranged engagement that was in the works, now pressure mounts from Rivka and other family members for her to marry Yochay. But initial meetings with him are awkward and he too is torn, as the Belgian prospect his family found seems promising. Furthermore, he’s in no rush to remarry. Shira and Yochay slowly get to know each other better. And the consequences of their growing familiarity, always compelling attention, are thankfully not always predictable.

The harsh milieu of Fill the Void, including the stark customs and dark, severe sets, may be distasteful to many (including secular Jews, feminists, liberals and design aesthetes), but this world for many outside orthodoxy will also be perversely fascinating.
Performances are wonderful. Burshtein told press that the main actors, including the Venice award-winning Hadas Yaron in her feature debut, were not even from the Orthodox community. Significantly, the universal emotions conveyed here require no Torah study.


Film Review: Fill the Void

Israel’s official submission for Oscar’s 2012 Best Foreign Language Film is a stunning melodrama centered on an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and prospects for a tragedy-fueled arranged marriage between a teen and older man. The film is also a nice marriage of affecting art and impressive craft.

May 22, 2013

-By Doris Toumarkine


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1377658-Fill_Void_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Here’s “men in black” of a different kind for filmgoers, as first-time feature director Rama Burshtein’s characters in Fill the Void, including its females, are highly conservative, humorless and anti-feminist. The film’s Hasidic Tel Aviv community (Burshtein shot on location) is certainly no North Korea, but a lot of moviegoers will be curious to penetrate this well-protected, little-seen corner of Jewish life as a foreign land within a foreign land.

Burshtein’s stunning debut proves that access isn’t just gold for documentary filmmakers. As a Jew who became ultra-Orthodox as an adult, she was able to go inside Tel Aviv’s ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community for her story, at the heart of which is beautiful 18-year-old Shira (Hadas Yaron), excited about her in-the-works engagement to a suitable man from a good family.

But before the engagement can proceed further, tragedy strikes. Shira’s older married sister Esther (Ranana Raz) dies on the Purim holiday giving birth to her first child, who survives. Especially devastated by this bleak turn is Shira’s mother Rivka (Irit Sheleg), also further crushed when she learns that Esther’s widowed husband Yochay (Yiftach Klein) may be taking the motherless infant son to Belgium, where his family has found a suitable mate who refuses to relocate to Israel. Desperate to keep the baby near her as he’s all that remains of Esther, Rivka takes action and proposes that Yochay instead marry Shira.

Interestingly, the influence of Shira’s rabbi father Aharon (Chaim Sharir) in this dilemma that swirls in so male-dominated a world is minimized. As the local religious leader, Aharon’s foremost duty, according to Purim custom, and what occupies his time is to hand out charity to the community’s needy.

Shira’s growing conflict is that, in spite of her enthusiasm for the previously arranged engagement that was in the works, now pressure mounts from Rivka and other family members for her to marry Yochay. But initial meetings with him are awkward and he too is torn, as the Belgian prospect his family found seems promising. Furthermore, he’s in no rush to remarry. Shira and Yochay slowly get to know each other better. And the consequences of their growing familiarity, always compelling attention, are thankfully not always predictable.

The harsh milieu of Fill the Void, including the stark customs and dark, severe sets, may be distasteful to many (including secular Jews, feminists, liberals and design aesthetes), but this world for many outside orthodoxy will also be perversely fascinating.
Performances are wonderful. Burshtein told press that the main actors, including the Venice award-winning Hadas Yaron in her feature debut, were not even from the Orthodox community. Significantly, the universal emotions conveyed here require no Torah study.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

War Story
Film Review: War Story

Infuriatingly slow, enervating and basically empty contemplation of war's impact, and a waste of the formidable talent of a gallant Catherine Keener. More »

Happy Christmas
Film Review: Happy Christmas

Joe Swanberg's latest feature is a collection of strong individual scenes and performances that never quite finds its statement of purpose. More »

Very Good Girls
Film Review: Very Good Girls

More of a meandering, misguided path than a road to hell, Naomi Foner’s directing debut, starring Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen as 18-year-old BFFs, is similarly filled with good intentions. More »

The Kill Team
Film Review: The Kill Team

Marine Adam Winfield goes on trial in a case in which U.S. soldiers murdered innocent Afghanis. Strong subject marred by poor narrative choices. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Get On Up
Film Review: Get On Up

Chadwick Boseman is sensational in this multi-faceted portrait of troubled, pioneering soul-music giant James Brown. More »

Guardians of the Galaxy review
Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

With Marvel’s backing, cult filmmaker James Gunn blasts off for the stars and takes audiences along for a wild, funny ride. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here