Gett: The Trial of Vi­viane Am­salem

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - — Michael Abatemarco

Gett: The Trial of Vi­viane Am­salem , not rated, drama, in He­brew, French, and Ara­bic with sub­ti­tles, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 3.5 chiles

Co-di­rected by its star, Is­raeli film­maker and actress Ronit Elk­a­betz, and her brother Shlomi Elk­a­betz, Gett: The Trial of Vi­viane Am­salem is a sear­ing look at a re­gret­table mar­riage and the her­culean ef­fort it takes for an Is­raeli woman to di­vorce her hus­band un­der the Or­tho­dox Jewish law there. Ronit Elk­a­betz plays Vi­viane, an un­happy wife who, af­ter decades in a claus­tro­pho­bic mar­riage to Elisha (Simon Abkar­ian) — a man she mar­ried when she was fif­teen — takes her case to a rab­bini­cal court, where most of the film is set. Al­ready weary and drained of vi­tal­ity from her years spent in an emo­tion­ally abu­sive and love­less mar­riage, her day in court is far from lib­er­at­ing. As in­di­cated by the film’s ti­tle, Vi­viane is on trial here, though she has com­mit­ted no crime. The “trial” takes on an­other con­no­ta­tion, as with an “or­deal.” The word “gett” refers to the doc­u­ment an Is­raeli hus­band must sub­mit to the court be­fore a legal di­vorce be­comes pos­si­ble. Legal pro­ceed­ings are of course slanted to fa­vor men. The court mir­rors the mar­riage it­self: cramped, un­com­fort­able, and dra­co­nian.

The panel of three judges con­ven­ing to de­cide Vi­viane’s case are ran­kled by her, a woman who dares speak her mind in the misog­y­nis­tic at­mos­phere of her Or­tho­dox cul­ture, in which a fam­ily’s men are the voices of author­ity and its women are treated like sec­ond-class cit­i­zens. It takes some time be­fore we see Vi­viane and hear her speak — a de­pic­tion of her in­vis­i­bil­ity to the judges and lawyers as well as to Elisha. Yet, in this cli­mate, Vi­viane’s si­lence speaks vol­umes. We feel her iso­la­tion and con­stric­tion, wish­ing for her free­dom as pas­sion­ately as she does. Small acts of re­bel­lion take on huge sig­nif­i­cance. For in­stance, in court, she lets her hair down — an in­no­cent enough in­di­ca­tion of her de­sire to es­cape the re­stric­tions im­posed on her life — and is promptly chas­tised by the judges for im­mod­esty. Week af­ter week, the re­gal Vi­viane en­dures a farce that places her at the mercy of un­rea­son­able men, and she’s rou­tinely ig­nored, even dur­ing her tes­ti­mony.

Gett was nom­i­nated for the 72nd Golden Globe Awards for Best For­eign Lan­guage Film and was the of­fi­cial Is­raeli se­lec­tion in the same cat­e­gory for the 87th Academy Awards (though it wasn’t nom­i­nated). Far from be­ing a van­ity project for Elk­a­betz, the film’s un­re­lent­ingly tight fo­cus and point-of-view shots en­sure au­di­ence sym­pa­thy for Vi­viane’s plight. This is the third film from di­rec­tors Ronit and Shlomi Elk­a­betz about the un­for­tu­nate Am­salem fam­ily. (The first was 2004’s To Take a Wife , fol­lowed by 2008’s 7 Days .) How­ever, view­ers don’t have to see the ear­lier films to ap­pre­ci­ate this one. On its own mer­its, Gett is a fierce in­dict­ment of a sys­tem of tyran­ni­cal be­liefs and prac­tices en­demic to the cul­ture its pro­tag­o­nist be­longs to: Her keenly felt strug­gle rep­re­sents much more than the op­pres­sion of one woman.

The pa­tience of Job: Ronit Elk­a­betz

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.