Saturday, 1 September 2012
FILL THE VOID - TIFF 2012 - Review By Greg Klymkiw
Fill The Void (2012) *****
Dir. Rama Burshtein
Starring: Hadas Yaron, Yiftach Klein, Irit Sheleg, Chaim Sharir, Razia Israely, Hila Feldman, Renana Raz
Review By Greg Klymkiw
In a time when selfish personal needs are placed above those of tradition, culture and the preservation of the nuclear family unit, it's a genuine blessing to see a motion picture like Fill The Void which focuses so deeply and intensely upon a modern community steadfastly adhering to an ages-old way of life. That the film is one of the most beautifully written and delicately directed love stories in at least a decade - probably longer - is a testament to the great poetic qualities of filmmaker Rama Burshtein.
Like all great films, its surface is relatively simple, but as such, yields complexities and layers that augment this already enriching family drama. Shira (Hadas Yaron) is 18 years old and her family, members of the strict Orthodox Haredi community, has endeavoured to put together a perfect match for her husband-to-be and when she catches a glimpse of the bright, handsome young man selected to be her eventual life partner, she's thrilled beyond belief.
To add to her joy, it is Purim and her father, the venerable Rabbi Aharon (Chaim Sharir) is granting audience with family, friends and community in his patriarchal domicile - paying tribute by requesting their greatest needs and the good Rabbi granting them the practical means of attaining it. Shira's gorgeously radiant sister Esther (Renana Raz) is pregnant and her handsome, kind-hearted husband Yochay (Yiftach Klein) are in attendance for the festivities. Their undying love for each other is movingly and privately reaffirmed within the crowded family home.
The only spanner in the works appears to be the unmarried Frieda (Hila Feldman) who loves the family dearly, but also harbours jealousy and resentment that she is still without a match and terrified she will become an old maid. This, however, is not enough to spoil this time of celebration, prayer and song. Happiness abounds.
Sadly, into this bliss, tragedy of the most unexpected and devastating kind strikes. The family is faced with an emptiness and sorrow that is exacerbated by the conundrum of what to do about all the marriage plans in the works that have been seriously thrown out of whack by the calamitous events that have befallen them. And it is young, hopeful Shira who is faced with the greatest challenge of all - to maintain family purity, lineage and the very ties that bind - all of which are potentially convenient for everyone but herself and most of all, with the very real possibility that all her hopes and dreams will be forever altered, if not completely shattered.
Fill The Void becomes one of the most universal and moving of all love stories - rooted as it is in the notion of a greater good - sacrifice.
Burshtein's screenplay is both literate and passionate. She's provided herself with a first-rate template to direct a film of great power. Like the conservative community she trains her lens upon, she forces herself to stay within their world as closely as possible with mostly interior scenes, often in closeup and with a look that is warm, sumptuous, gorgeously composed and lit - all reflective of an insular world that beats on in spite of an outside secular and modern world. Her pacing is meticulous in its fluidity or rather, she seems in such complete control of the slow, deliberate nature of how life unfolds that we never feel like she's self-indulgently plodding along to maintain "reality", but instead creates a slow, delicate series of ebbs and flows that build to a crescendo of passion and emotion.
It is one of the few contemporary pieces of cinema that soars in ways the medium, at its core, has the potential to do when its exploited artistically in ways it seldom is - a medium that is more often squandered instead of being nurtured and valued for the great gifts it can bestow upon mankind.
Burshtein has created what might be one of our few modern masterpieces. Not a frame seems out of place, not a line of dialogue seems false, not a single performance achieves less than the miraculous.
Fill The Void does indeed fill a void. It's a movie we desperately need in these times - a film that explores both the pitfalls and joys of tradition, but at the same time, exposing how tradition can indeed be a beautiful part of existence when it is mediated and tempered by those, like the character of Shira, who allow the indomitability of her intellect, reason and spirit to seek what is ultimately her own happiness and fulfilment - one that is as inclusive of herself as it is of those around her.
Given that this is a film about a community in which marriage is the highest and holiest aspiration for women, Burshtein might have actually crafted one of the most feminist films in recent movie history. At its most basic level, though, it's a film so full of joy, sadness, humour and romance, that it puts most films about love, family and tradition to shame.
A masterpiece? I'd say so.
"Fill The Void" via Mongrel Media premieres at TIFF 2012.