Review for Filling the Void
Shira is a young Orthodox Hassid living in Tel Aviv. It seems she is awaiting to be paired up with a nice boy of her own age and upon meeting one it seems that everything is all going to plans. That is until her sister dies in labour and her mother in an attempt to keep her grandchild in the country proposes that she marries her brother in law Yochay. This is where one of the many moral dilemmas comes from. Should Shira marry him, just to keep the family together or should she follow her heart's desire.
When you read that this is a film about arranged marriages I'm sure the usual cliches go through your mind. It is either the comedic effect of the ugly suitor or the awful match that leads to misery. This is neither. Well not quite. There is the moral ambiguity of what is being proposed with a woman who will be a child's auntie and adopted mother. There is the age difference between the two and the previous history, but then there is also the feeling that Shira repeatedly agrees to the match and then goes and messes it up. It can be argued that she does this because in her heart she doesn't want to marry Yochay.
At times I thought the film was just going to be slow and boring, but over the less than ninety minutes you get a wonderful glimpse at this society. Family gatherings have a timeless quality to them reminiscent of something from a 19th Century novel. One moment has an old woman coming to the Rabbi for help, but not for money or for prayer, but for some advice on what cooker to buy. This scene is so unexpected that I couldn't help but laugh at the honest and absurdity of it.
The acting throughout is perfect with Hadas Yaron as Shira able to balance her performance wonderfully. This acting is aided by smooth and fluid camerawork that looked at times like something from Coppola's Godfather Trilogy. Written and Directed by Rama Burshtein in her Feature debut it is a very strong and simple film and it is not surprising that this was Israel's submission for the Best Foreign Film, though it is surprising considering how many awards it won that it wasn't nominated.
Extras include a Trailer, wonderful Commentary by Rama Burshtein and Hadas Yaron who provide a fascinating discussion of the film worth watching the film a second time for. I would say that it does suffer from long periods of silence and really should have been edited to fill in the gaps. The Q&A with the two is also great, able to answer some further questions that were not done on the commentary.
Fill the Void is a wonderfully simple film and sometimes these films are the best. I watched this film, expecting either an arthouse films with flashy jumpcuts of metaphors or one of pain and misery, instead this is just a simple story about two people coming together. That's all it is. Some people may not like it for that reason, but they should watch it to see how a film can be made without having to rely on action and CGI. This film will fill that void.