Reel Bob: ‘GETT: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem’
By Bob Bloom
“GETT: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” will so outrage your sense of justice that you need to restrain yourself from jumping at the screen.
This Israeli feature follows a woman’s five-year battle to secure a divorce from her husband. Under Israel’s religious marriage laws, only Orthodox rabbis can legalize a marriage or authorize a divorce — and only with the husband’s consent. Viviane and her husband, Elisha, have been estranged for years. Despite their separation, Elisha refuses to grant Viviane what she wants — her freedom.
The film is very critical of Israel’s patriarchy and how it restrains women. A compelling performance by Ronit Elkabetz as Viviane rivets you as this woman continues to battle an unfeeling system that is weighted against her. Her husband refuses to give any reason why he will not grant a divorce, thus tying the trio of rabbinical judges from taking action.
Again and again, the rabbis urge Viviane to return home and try to work out whatever issues keep her and Elisha apart, and month after month, year after year, she returns to the small chamber where the rabbis preside, begging them to grant her wish.
Meanwhile, Elisha, played by Simon Abkarian, stalls. He misses court appearances, refuses to offer any explanations or even call witnesses, until the judges threaten him with time in jail. For five long years, Viviane is a Daniela in a hostile lions’ den, but she is persistent, battling for her rights as a human being. Whether or not she succeeds is problematical because the price she is forced to pay is very high.
What the film, directed by Elkabetz and her sibling, Ronit, does, is cast a harsh light on a dark segment of Israeli society that is mostly obscured from the outside world.
The film hits the underlying tensions between the secular Israel that the outside world sees and the religious nation in which not everyone is equal under the law. “GETT” is a powerful indictment of a system in which, as Viviane proclaims, women are invisible. The Elkabetzes have used the art of cinema to expose these inequalities to the world and in doing so, may have opened the door to change.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at Reel Bob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
GETT: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
5 YAPS out of 5