The most intriguing film I’ve seen in a while is Fill the Void, an Isreali film made in 2012, which kept me fascinated on my flight back home. Fill the Void is a quiet, dramatic film that focuses on a Hassidic (some reviewers refer to the community as Haredi, but the distributor calls it Hassidic) community in Tel Aviv.
In this very traditional world, we meet Shira, an 18 year old woman who visits a grocery store with her aunt to get a glimpse of a young man she may marry. Courtship is very much a communal activity within this society. She’s pleased with this earnest young man and eager to marry as her sister Esther has. Esther is older and stunningly beautiful, clearly the center of Yorchay, her husband’s life. However, life takes a cruel turn when Esther dies in childbirth. The Shira’s parents often care for the baby and when Yorchay’s mother announces that he’s considering remarrying and moving to Belgium, Shira’s mother hopes to convince him to marry Shira instead so the baby will always be nearby.
What unfolds is a careful, respectful story about characters whose traditions may seem archaic, but truly still work for them. Shira’s torn between what to do. She envisioned a different life and she’s little experience making such decisions. It’s not a family that disregards her wishes or forces Shira to bend to theirs. In fact, it’s interesting how thoughtfully this community works to see that wisdom and justice prevail in all matters brought before the rabbis.
Directed by Rama Burshtein, an orthodox female director, the power of the film lies in its silent moments and thoughtful characters. It’s a world where people consider other’s happiness and tradition as much if not more than their own. There’s no such thing as a snap judgement in this society which manages to continue in the midst of a world that moves at breakneck pace. I found the acting superb and the view into this rarely seen world fascinating. If you watch it, you’ll realize the beauty of a traditional community that’s easy for us to dismiss.
While courtship in this film is constrained by the culture’s dictates, there is a current of a sort of romance here, not American or Western romance, but a very interesting sort. Give this film a chance.
The film is hard to find. It’s not on Netflix, but I see that my library has the DVD. Perhaps yours does too.
- Fill the Void – film review (standard.co.uk)
- Fill the Void – review (theguardian.com)
- Fill the Void, review (telegraph.co.uk)