Review: Gett ready for drama!
By Alan Stein:
With the Human Rights Arts & Film Festival upon us, one film is poised to catch the collective Jewish eye. For those who missed it at the Jewish International Film Festival last year, Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem is back on the big screen.
In Gett, Shlomi and Roni Elkabetz present the dramatic story of Viviane Amsalem (Roni Elkabetz). Viviane seeks what should be a simple, speedy divorce from from her passive-aggressive husband of 20 years, Elisha (Simon Abkarian).
The reason is simple. The marriage is not happy, seldom loving and Viviane wants to exercise autonomy over her life.
But divorce in Israel is a man’s world. There is no civil marriage, no civil divorce and the proceeding is anything but civilised. Frequent point-of-view shots in a claustrophobic courtroom highlight the intentions, complexities and vulnerabilities of each character. The superb acting and the fierce dialogue make a familiar religious process truly Kafka-esque as years pass before a result is reached.
There are dramatic scenes of Viviane’s lawyer Carmel (Menashe Noy) arguing vehemently against an empty chair; Elisha’s captivating stares of cold indifference at Viviane as if she were a purchased toaster which had broken, and the scattered comic breaths of fresh air as witnesses are called for both sides. Special mention here to Rubi Porat Shoval, who nearly brought the theatre into hysterics as Viviane’s sister-in-law Rachel.
Very few minutes of the movie are spent outside the courtroom. The Elkabetzes force you to endure Viviane’s torment every step of the way, feeling her years of struggle in a couple of hours.
One scene defines the movie for me. In a sea of grey walls, black coats and male voices Viviane appears in a red outfit and absent-mindedly lets her long hair hang by her shoulders. The judges see an affront, and the audience is forced to watch the patriarchy resume their stranglehold. The scene is moving but borders on cliché and recovers shortly afterward.
In the end the title gives it away. It was never a divorce proceeding. The gett was a trial of Viviane Amsalem.
Alan Stein is a madrich with Betar Melbourne.