Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Fill the Void

Written and directed by Rama Burshtein, Fill the Void is the story about an 18-year old girl who is pressured by her family in the Haredi Jewish community in Tel Aviv, Israel to marry her late sister’s husband following the death of her sister through childbirth. The film explores the life of a young woman in a strict community as she finds herself with very little options about what to do with her life. Starring Hadas Yaron, Chaim Sharir, Ido Samuel, Irit Sheleg, Yiftach Klein, and Hila Feldman. Fill the Void is a compelling and touching film from Rama Burshtein.

The film is a simple story about a young woman who is asked by her family to marry her brother-in-law following the death of her sister through childbirth. Much of it set in the Haredi Jewish community in Tel Aviv as this 18-year old woman is a pawn in an arrangement by her family who are hoping that Yochay (Yiftach Klein) would stay in Tel Aviv with his newborn son Mordechai as he’s been given a prospect to marry a woman in Belgium which the family doesn’t want. Much of the story is told through the perspective of Shira (Hadas Yaron) who had been taking care of Mordechai as she also deals with other future prospects for a husband but isn’t sure if she wants to get married. Though she likes Yochay, she isn’t sure about marrying him as well as she had no idea what to do while her family doesn’t want to put too much pressure.

Rama Burshtein’s screenplay not only explores the pressure that Shira has to deal with as well as the role that Yochay has to play. It is largely a family drama where Shira’s parents are aware of the obligations they have in their community as they’re still grieving over the death of their eldest daughter Esther (Renana Raz). At the same time, they realize that forcing Shira to marry Yochay would have some serious repercussions on both of them as they turn to an un-married friend of Esther in Freida (Hila Feldman) who is apprehensive about getting married though she thinks Yochay is a good man. It all plays to the sense of drama as a family deals with loss as well as losing the one thing they had left in the life of their late daughter.

Burshtein’s direction is very intimate in the way she portrays the life of a Haredi Jewish family filled with a lot of religious images in the background. Even as Burshtein uses a lot of close-ups and medium shots to go for something that isn’t stylized but rather a very simple portrait of a family and a young woman being pressured to fill the role that her older sister was supposed to play. The compositions that Burshtein creates are very entrancing in her close-ups as well as how she would fit two or three characters into a frame while playing to the intensity of the drama without the need to embellish or get heavy into melodrama. Overall, Burshtein creates a very evocative and touching film about a young woman finding herself to fill a role for her family.

Cinematographer Asaf Sudry does excellent work with the film‘s very understated cinematography from the way it plays to the film‘s intimate setting with its use of interior lights and such as well as a few exterior shots. Editor Sharon Elovic does nice work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward to play into the intensity of the drama as well as a few rhythmic cuts for some of the lighter moments of the film. Art director Uri Aminov does fantastic work with the look of the home that Shira lives in as well as some of the places in the community she and her family are in.

Costume designer Hani Gurevitch does amazing work with the costumes from the look of the hats and clothes that the men and women wear in part of the world they live in. Sound designer Aviv Aldema does superb work with the sound to play into the calm atmosphere of the film as well as some of the moments in the ceremonies that is held in the community. The film’s music by Yitzhak Azulay is wonderful for its mixture of orchestral music mixed in with traditional Jewish music to play into that world which includes some usage of the accordion.

The casting by Michel Koren is brilliant for the ensemble that is created as it features notable small roles from Melech Thal as a head rabbi, Michael David Weigl as the family friend Shtreicher, Ido Samuel as the relative Yossi Mendelman, Yael Tal as one of Shira and Esther’s friends in Shiffi, and Renana Raz as Shira’s older sister Esther. Razia Israeli is terrific as Aunt Hanna who tries to press the family to get Shira to marry while Hila Feldman is wonderful as family friend Freida who becomes unsure about wanting to get married as she is unattached to anyone.

Chaim Sharir and Irit Sheleg are superb as Shira’s parents who become concerned for the fate of their grandson while wondering if Shira should take on the role that Esther was supposed to play. Yiftach Klein is excellent as Yochay Goldberg as Shira’s brother-in-law who grieves over the loss of his wife while trying to figure out what to do next for himself and his newborn son. Finally, there’s Hadas Yaron in a radiant performance as Shira Mendelman as a young 18-year old woman who finds herself in the middle of a family drama as she deals with the role that she might have to play as well as the decisions she has to make to ensure the future of her newborn nephew and the family dynamics.

Fill the Void is a marvelous film from Rama Burshtein. Armed with a great cast led by Hadas Yaron, it’s a film that is very touching and engaging for the way it explores a family and community trying to deal with death and a family’s future. Especially in a world such as a traditional Jewish community where there’s certain rules and expectations as a young woman is caught in this very intense world. In the end, Fill the Void is a rapturous and mesmerizing film from Rama Burshtein.

© thevoid99 2014


Anonymous said...

I had some issues with this film, mainly because I felt that all the great plot points lacked the needed depth to make them all stick. I reviewed this a while back too:

thevoid99 said...

I didn't notice any of that as I was more into the situation and what the Shira character was going through as I really was surprised by the film in how simple it was.