Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes, Rated PG
Starring: Hadas Yaron, Yiftach Klein, Irit Sheleg, Chayim Sharir, Renana Raz
Written & Directed by Rama Burshtein (feature-film debut)
In the film, Fill the Void (opening today), we get a very serious glimpse inside of a world that most are not familiar with: That of an Orthodox Hasidic community. In this culture, marriages are arranged, and when a tragedy befalls her family, young Shira (Hadas Yaron) is forced by her elders to marry her sister's husband, Yochay (Yiftach Klein), against her will.
Themes of feminism, repression and duty are all examined in this very serious and somewhat provocative film, but the film's patient style and pace renders much of it ineffective. As shots linger much longer than necessary and the filmmaker cuts from one extreme close-up to another, Fill the Void became a rather tedious experience.
The acting is top-notch though, with both leads bringing weight to their performances, and specifically great is Chayim Sharir as the family rabbi. I at least think this was his role.
This admitted confusion was part of the problem. The film is so particular and so "inside" that if you are not Jewish you may have a hard time tackling the content. I for one, felt a disconnect with the material and not for lack of trying. It is often fascinating to glimpse into unfamiliar territory on film - to trek into unknown cultures or socieities - but usually there is some sort of entry point presented by the filmmaker, a hook for those audience members that happen to be unaware of the world they are being presented with.
There were universal themes at play here - as mentioned previously - but the story was also terribly predictable in addition to tiresome. Watching Fill the Void felt more like reading an article you would happen upon in a magazine...where you may glance at the headline and then take in the first few sentences. Upon realizing that the article is not for you, you quickly and without a care, turn the page.
The page couldn't have turned more quickly. Fill the Void felt like a missed opportunity, an important film waiting for its gaping holes to be filled in with some level of clarity for a wider audience, who were seemingly not invited to the party.
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