GETT: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem – Review

GETT:  The Trial of Viviane Amsalem is a gripping and frustrating look at one woman's attempt to divorce her husband.  Click through for my review.

Viviane (Ronit Elkabetz in GETT.  Courtesy of Music Box Films

Oscar and Golden nominated film about the sad reality of the mixing of religion and law.  For two hours you never leave the courthouse.  You rarely leave the gaze of Ronit Elkabetz (Viviane Amsalem).  It's her gaze that is the reason to see this frustrating look into the Israeli rabbinical court.  Ronit Elkabetz endures through the unthinkable reality that her fate is tied to a man she no longer wishes to be married to.  The bottom line is that in the modern court of Israel divorce is handled in the ancient biblical manner.  Orthodox rabbis can marry or divorce and only with the full consent of the husband.  The woman's choice is not important.  It's fitting that this film is having an American release during Woman's History Month.  In the film, Viviane has an out burst of emotion where she yells at the judges that in America if her husband didn't show up to court twice that divorce would be granted.  Woman's rights in a legal sense are something very recent even in American history and thus to an ancient history that Israel looks to is holy unthinkable.  No matter how much she battles it still comes down to the court needing this man to approve.  Elisha (Simon Abkarian of CASINO ROYALE and PERSEPOLIS) is a devout husband who can't give into the notion that he can't just continue to love her.  Back and forth this argument goes.

Viviane (Ronit Elkabetz), Carmel (Menashe Noy) and Elisha (Simon Abkarian) in GETT. Courtesy of Music Box Films

It's the performances that matter in this film.  Ronit is incredible as Viviane.  She battles and battles through the obviously hypocritical court system.  It's her request of divorce and yet even the mentioning of her having a coffee at a mall with a man unravels the judges emotion as they ask if she has been adulterous.  The element of sex is a really unique part of the film.  These two people both openly admit to not having sex in years maybe even a decade.  They have had children, now all grown and for the last decade have lived apart basically.  The bible pushes the notion of marriage is to have children.  What happens when you've stopped having children?  One of the witnesses is asked about her 6 miscarriages and how in this society risking the mother's health to have more children is accepted.  The majority of the world follows these ancient feelings and yet this case isn't about children.  He is just not wanting to give in and she is just wanting to be free.  But the courts say that isn't important, he there isn't cause then they can't push him for the divorce.  Menashe Noy (Carmel) is Viviane's lawyer and a man from a famous religious family who has obviously given up his own beliefs.  He doesn't where a yarmulke (skull cap) that Jewish men are meant to wear in synagogue, court and some believe all the time.  His frustration is totally visible in his contempt to the Judges.  He even pokes and prods them with slight insults and yet the trial continues.  That is the real amazing part, Viviane spends more time on trial for her divorce then in the 3 years of self-imposed exile from her husband. 

Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz, directors of GETT.  Courtesy of Music Box Films.

Brother and Sister filmmakers Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz have created a fluid and entertaining look at a frustrating subject matter.  It's a film that begs for further discussion.  You can't leave this film without wanting to talk to someone about this issue.  And to see the irony of this power couple making a film about the hypocrisy of marriage in the religious court is just pure bliss.  Overall a frustrating issue in a well made and important film.

For more information about the film go to the website.