Fill the Void Screen 16 articles

Fill the Void

2012

Fill the Void Poster
  • It’s the sort of politely middling art film that will no doubt lead many urbanites of all ages to deeply, earnestly question their most fundamental moral beliefs for half an hour over expensive cocktails after the movie and then never think of it again.

  • At no point does it even remotely approach the wit and sophistication of Austen (its professed model), and I'm afraid I can't help but recoil from its unapologetic embrace of "traditional" roles for women, however feisty said women may prove within the confines of those dictates.

  • My central reservation with Fill the Void is that it is ostensibly a woman-centred film, but lacks a feminist consciousness. The young woman protagonist is the primary point of focus, and she is portrayed with great, generous psychological detail – individualised in a way that grabs our attention and sympathy. But this is precisely the problem: we remain at the level of individual decisions and actions, without ever moving to a higher level of systemic reflection or questioning or critique.

  • While the social milieu is nicely realized, other parts of the drama are not. Too often Burshtein cuts off a scene prematurely, darting away just as the crucial moment of emotion or confrontation appears. It’s obviously not a subculture in which people have wide-ranging heart-to-heart talks, but there is little in the way of action to compensate. Poignant close-ups are no substitute for character development.

  • The mise-en-scene of this Israeli drama is appropriately suffocating: the camera rarely moves, the focus is often shallow, and there's little intimation of the world outside the frame. As a result none of the religious rituals feels particularly spiritual, and even the nominally happy ending fails to alleviate the oppressive tone.

  • In the narrow space between her desire to placate and her nascent understanding that this decision is for life, Yeron expresses a world of terror. Yet a convenient turn of events heads off this psychological drama turning this microcosmic family piece into something that feels like the fulfilment of an idealistic agenda.

  • That "Fill the Void" emerges as a trickily qualified feminist work is testament to the writer-director's light touch as a rhetorical conductor.

  • Burshtein unfolds her complex drama with a deft, patient hand, tracking the manipulations and transactions that mark the community's behaviors while registering the fallout of Shira's reluctance to wed against her will. It's a tightly wound film, for all its seemingly relaxed pace, and one that shrewdly maps out the levels of social obligation that affect all the film's characters.

  • While Fill the Void paints a painstaking portrait of these people and their culture—which New York native Burshtein adopted as her own several years ago—the film is no ethnographic study. It is a drama that redefines love by offering a conception of romance and marriage shaped by the unique cultural perspective of its characters. The film’s narrative is thus deepened rather than upstaged by its exotic social context.

  • A triumph of style - might be an Israeli thing, see also Restoration - hazy soft-focus and very hot highlights married with bizarre compositions and people right on the edge of the frame (the whole film looks like a dream sequence) effectively making a virtue of the alien psychology ("Stop me from feeling!" prays our heroine) and the fact that the whole community is straight out of Fiddler on the Roof.

  • This romantic melodrama, written and directed by Rama Burshtein, has an irresistible allure despite its bathetic drift. Burshtein takes a quasi-ethnographic look at the devout community—the opening maneuvers of the matchmaker’s plot have a Hitchcockian devilry, and the socioeconomic power of rabbis at holiday time is brought to the fore. The intense focus on ritual is deep and narrow, revealing its infiltration into the most intimate corners of life—and that’s where the drama arises.

  • Fill the Void captures [Yaron's] exquisite performance in quiet moments, the character isolated in thought. The film isn’t exactly rousing in its conclusion, but it’s always respectful: a serious ethical inquiry into matters of women’s choice, both imposed and seized upon. Check it out.

  • It was directed with a sure, delicate touch and great intimacy by Rama Burshtein, a New York-born Orthodox woman who studied film in Israel. She counts David Lynch as a favorite, but she’s also a classicist whose precise framing, beautiful lighting and unabashedly sexy but chaste scenes make this a festival must-see.

  • Director Rama Burshtein’s debut is nothing less than astonishing. She’s a card-carrying member of Israel’s Hared community and, with that experience, has crafted a work of moral complexity and visual artistry, the contents of which some viewers will find repellent. A major component of the film’s triumph comes courtesy of Hadas Yaron as the 18-year-old Shira. With minimal means—furtive glances, pursed lips, and all other manner of momentary hesitations—her performance speaks volumes.

  • Burshtein's lush visual sensibility, and the subtle performances of the excellent cast, create an aching portrayal of longing and interdependence that transcends the boundaries of the family's small world.

  • It’s missing the point to complain that Fill the Void is conservative; the terms of its argument are so far outside familiar western social norms that the film registers as altogether radical in its gentle, elegantly expressed otherness. To establish this hermetic social world, largely restricted to interiors, Burshtein and DP Asaf Sudri create a distinctive and seductive visual style that emphasises intimacy: shallow focus, low angles, highly composed groupings.

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