I still remember as a shock the first scene of the movie Kadosh, by Amos Gitaï, where a Jerusalem orthodox man is praying with these words: "Thank you God for sparing me the pain of being born a woman".
This scene popped up in my mind the other day, when I had the chance to see the avant-première of the film Gett (The Trial of Viviane Amsalem) by Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz, even if the story is not set in Jerusalem among orthodox people but in Tel Aviv nowadays among Sephardic people of Moroccan origins.
Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz are siblings. They have written and directed together a trilogy: To take a wife (2004), Shiva/The Seven Days (2008) and now this Gett, where they follow the life of a woman, Viviane, played by Ronit herself. I stupidly missed the first two movies, but now I am determined to see them all, because this last part is one of the most interesting and intense things I’ve recently seen on screen.
Viviane has been married to Elisha since she was very young: never a happy couple, they have been living separated for many years, and now Viviane would like to legally divorce. But in Israel civil marriage and civil divorce don’t exist. Only rabbis can legitimate a marriage and its dissolution, and this dissolution is only possible with full consent from the husband. Which, in this case (as in many others, I guess), is the difficult part. Viviane will have to wait for more than 5 years (!) from the moment of her first request and to endure an infinite, absurd and exhausting trial to finally see her wish satisfied. And not even completely…
|Elisha (Simon Abkarian)|
|Viviane (Ronit Elkabetz)|
Starting on a funnier note (the parade of witnesses, the altercations between the defenders), the film gets more and more asphyxiating and exasperating. To the point that you want to scream reading for the 15th time on the screen: 2 months later, 3 months later, 5 months later and all you see is the same, old scene (knowing nothing will change). The absurdity of the situation, the sense of frustration and impotence towards the rabbis’ judgemental attitude, the unbearable obstinacy of the husband, bring the audience, together with the female character, on the verge of a nervous breakdown. How is it possible that in a so-called modern society a woman is obliged to go through such an ordeal just to get a divorce? I’m sure this movie is more powerful on the subject than hundreds of essays.
Confined in four walls, filmed in austere close-ups, all the actors are absolutely astonishing. Ronit Elkabetz, with her enigmatic beauty, stands out for her magnificent performance: when her rage finally explodes, you just want to embrace her and tell her you understand: she’s so unlucky to be born a woman in a place like that...