Category Archives: Israeli

Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem-2014

Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem-2014

Director Ronit Elkabetz, Shlomi Elkabetz

Starring Ronit Elkabetz, Simon Abkarian

Scott’s Review #409


Reviewed June 9, 2016

Grade: B+

Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem (2014) is the third in a trilogy of films focusing on the title character Vivian Amsalem and her unhappy marriage to her husband, Elisha.

The unhappiness is hers and he sees no reason to end the marriage.

It is a film about culture, religion, and modern views versus traditional ones.

I was unaware the film was a trilogy until after I finished watching and began conducting some research as I prepared to review it. It is not required to view the first two filmsĀ  (To Take A Wife and Shiva) to enjoy this film as I suspect they are each a chapter not continuations.

Vivian is a tall, beautiful woman, though she is weary and haggard when we first lay eyes on her in the stifling courtroom, where she sits and spends much of her time. She has long dark hair and intense eyes- she appears driven and quite modern and of liberal thinking, a feminist perhaps.

She is frustrated because her yearning for an independent life has been thwarted by her husband. She would like a divorce after over twenty years. Having met him at age fifteen, his is the only life she has known.

Since he will not agree to the divorce, the courts will not grant her the decision she wants. Since he has not abused her and gives her everything she desires, the judges have no grounds to grant her the divorce.

This is the conflict of the film.

Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem has a clear religious message, which is an interesting component for an American viewer.

How simple it is to divorce somebody in Western civilization and how different the measure is in Israel. Jewish religious law is quite restrictive.

Vivian faces an enormous ordeal. She does not love her husband yet cannot end her loveless marriage. The film is fraught with a clear conflict and one’s interpretation of right and wrong.

Almost set as a play since the film has merely one set- the courtroom- this aspect is effective at showing frustration, exasperation, and even rage.

All the while, Gett, has a sly sense of humor, and I could not help but smirk at a few of the supporting character portrayals.

I sensed a Pedro Almodovar (a famous Spanish director) influence in the quirky, sly writing, and his themes of political freedom.

Character after character is called into the courtroom to testify as witnesses to Vivian and Elisha’s happy marriage- each attorney looking for evidence to cement their client’s point of view.

In contrast, to Vivian’s fierce independence, a mature neighbor couple of Vivian and Elisha heralds them as the perfect couple. Soon, the wife is grilled revealing that she is submissive to her husband and lives in an entirely different world than Vivian.

To be critical, the film drags slightly, but I wonder if this is the director’s intent. The tone is a suffocating one- Vivian and her attorney languish in the same courtroom for five long years as delay after delay occurs.

Throughout the numerous testimonies, an accusation is raised that is an interesting component of the film and an aspect I wondered about very early on- was an affair brewing between Vivian and her attorney? It is alluded to, but never confirmed, rather shrouded in mystery.

One wonders.

From an acting perspective, Ronit Elkabetz is fantastic, I am saddened she did not receive an Oscar nomination, but some buzz about this actress was expressed when the film was released. Her scene of pure rage towards the end of the film is brilliant. All the years of bottled-up emotions come flowing out in one great performance.

Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem (2014) is an intense experience in tedium, frustration, and ultimately rage, but is never stuffy or too serious as evidenced by humorous supporting characters. It is for patient film fans seeking an emotional, human experience.

The Gatekeepers-2012

The Gatekeepers-2012

Director Dror Moreh

Starring Ami Ayalon

Scott’s Review #103


Reviewed July 10, 2014

Grade: B-

I truly wanted to love The Gatekeepers, an Oscar-nominated documentary from 2012, but only mildly enjoyed it.

I find the nominating process and the award determination for documentaries baffling. In recent years it is beginning to mirror the Foreign Language film selection process.

The one documentary of the five that is brilliant (How to Survive a Plague) did not win and the documentary that did win (Searching for Sugar Man) was good, but not great.

The Gatekeepers explores an important, informative topic-the Israeli Secret Service. The documentary consisted of interviews with five former Secret Service members and was a tell-all of past situations and how the members handled the matters.

The documentary also uses real footage and computer animation to explain how the Secret Service becomes involved in military activity.

Important stuff, but it comes across as a bit dry and relatively dull.

After thirty minutes I found myself looking at the clock and somewhat tuning out.

I respect the documentary for its subject matter, but it could have used a bit of spice to keep things moving along.

Oscar Nominations: Best Documentary-Feature