Arranged marriages are a time-honored custom of orthodox religious communities. Even in this Smartphone utilizing world, people still cling to traditions that doesn't take others feeling into its account. Rama Burshtein's Israeli movie, "Fill the Void" ("Lemale et ha'halal", 2012) takes us to an 18 year old girl, and her life inside an Orthodox Hasidic Jewish community (of Tel Aviv, Israel). Director Burshtein, who herself, a member of this ultra-orthodox community cites her influence as 'Jane Austen.' "Fill the Void" is not just a movie that criticizes the sexist repression. It is a character-driven drama that depicts religious veneration from within.
Rivka (Irit Sheleg) and Shira (Hadas Yaron) -- mother and daughter -- are scanning the isles of a supermarket at the start of the film. Through the fresh products, Shira, the 18 year old girl tries to catch a glimpse of a young man -- a potential husband for Shira. The mother and daughter joke about him and they both are delighted. The blissfulness is interrupted when during the Purim celebration, Shira’s beloved and beautiful sister Esther (Renana Raz) dies giving birth to her son. Esther's husband and the community stalwart, Yohay (Yiftach Klein) is forced to take a new wife to raise his infant. Rivka, who can't bear the thought of losing her only grandchild, devises a plan to wed Shira to Yochay.
The accordion playing, cheerful Shira (works at a local nursery) is shocked by the notion, although she is discreet about expressing her emotions. Shira is a dutiful daughter but she doesn't want to 'fill the void' her sister has left. She has the illusionary veto power but heavy-duty pressures are brought down on her to bear.
Director Burshtein's universal tale about women is filled with expressions and it fills the void of forbidden words. The men in this film, with their black hats and head coverings stay in the back as some brooding characters, whereas, the women characters shine like a beacon of light. Burhstein and her cinematographer Asaf Sudry illuminates Shira's world. It is like getting a direct access to her soul. The script and direction unfolds this drama in a very patient manner. It tracks the manipulations that marks any orthodox community and at the same time registers the fall out of Shira's reluctant stand.
Burshtein clearly shows that the women are indomitable, even among the patriarchy. She doesn't make an outright comment on what she is showing. She also doesn't portray that the young woman is forced to marry the person selected, but subtly states that the religious law overpowers women and makes the personal preference, irrelevant. Yaron gives a very delicate performance as Shira. She perfectly expresses her doleful emotions through an accordion. Klein gives an enigmatic performance as Yochay. He is a soft and gentle guy at times and is a big hovering guy at other times.
"Fill the Void" (85 mins) should be seen for its director's lush visual sensibility, and for the subtle performances of an excellent cast. It showcases the inevitability in the life of a girl, who is ordered by an intractable and esoteric custom.
Fill the Void -- IMDb