Fill the Void (2012)

by - May 24th, 2013 - Movie Reviews


Well Made Void Not for Everyone

There are times when you realize you just aren’t the right person to be reviewing a certain film. This moment happened for me while I was watching the Israeli import Fill the Void written and directed by Rama Burshtein. Extremely well made, dripping with authenticity, emotionally honest to a fault, the movie is exquisitely acted by its entire cast and extremely well shot by cinematographer Asaf Sudri, and as such is overflowing in merits I cannot come close to dismissing.

PHOTO: Sony Pictures Classics

With that being the case, I have to admit, somewhat embarrassingly, Fill the Void is not a movie for me. The story of a young 18-year-old Orthodox Hasidic woman, Shira (Hadas Yaron), faced with an unthinkable choice after the tragic death of her older sister Esther (Renana Raz) during childbirth, the movie chronicles a world I couldn’t relate to no matter how hard I wanted to try. The story revolves around religious pressures that treat women as second class citizens, stripping their rights and decisions away from them, and watching it my dander got raised to such a gigantic degree I almost couldn’t handle it. The movie made me mad, and I had trouble understanding what was going on or why Shira was allowing herself to be manhandled in such an abhorrent way, my own preconceptions and biases keeping me at arm’s length from the central dramatics for most of the running time.

The basic gist is that, after her sister’s horrific death, Shira’s mother learns that her son-in-law Yochay (Yiftach Klein) is planning on remarrying and moving to Belgium with their new grandchild. Not wanting this to happen, she proposes to match her younger daughter with the distraught widower, an idea the entire family initially resists but over time starts to reconsider. This puts Shira and Yochay in an unenviable position, neither of them wanting to disappoint the rest of the clan while at the same time having to come to grips with whether or not a potential lifetime together is what’s best for both them as well as the newborn child.

It’s an intriguing premise, I can’t deny that, and it is apparent that Shira isn’t necessarily being forced to marry anyone, both she and Yochay having to agree with the match before any marriage can proceed. Yet it is as if every woman in this movie is walking around in desperate hope that she is going to get “matched” and live a happy, blissful life on her new man’s arms and not make any decisions of her own. The religious haze everyone is walking around in was one I could barely understand and almost never relate to, and as intimate and personal as the movie might have been this was still one story I just couldn’t connect with.

PHOTO: Sony Pictures Classics

Here’s what I can say about Fill the Void: Yaron is incredible, diving into her character with fearless abandon. As already mentioned, Sudri’s camerawork is phenomenal, gliding around corners and invading tiny crevices in a way that feels eerily naturalistic. Burshtein’s direction is intentionally delicate, the filmmaker confidently allowing the actions onscreen to speak in fashion that feels undeniably sincere.

All of that is laudable. All of that deserves the gigantic amount of praise sent the film’s direction every festival it has played at. The movie is remarkable in most ways that matter, and I’m sure many are going to take away an amazing amount of insight into a world few know anything about that they otherwise wouldn’t have garnered without seeing it. But, for me at least, none of this meant near enough, my own feelings and views sadly invading my headspace as I watched things play themselves out to conclusion. I admired Fill the Void but I didn’t like it, and no matter how hard I try to make myself change that opinion sadly that’s just one thing at this time I simply cannot do.

Film Rating: 2½ (out of 4)

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