Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem Screen 12 articles

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

2014

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem Poster
  • Part of the appeal of this twistily written film lies in the way it maintains the impossibility of truly characterizing a relationship to outsiders... Spare and yet rich, Gett features a gallery of surprising and often funny characters taking their turns on the stage, and a stringent scheme of point-of-view camerawork that, while sometimes awkward, aptly underlines the subjectivity of the courtroom.

  • The cinematographic restraint allows performance to come to the fore, with particular notice due to Sasson Gabai (best known from 2007’s The Band’s Visit) and Rubi Porat Shoval, as Elisha’s sanctimonious brother and Viviane’s snappy sister-in-law, respectively. The linchpin of this Divorce Israeli Style, of course, is Elkabetz, whose taut self-regulation finally snaps with a Magnani-like explosion directed towards the court, to a resounding round of applause from the audience.

  • The plot is linearly built, dragging us through the proceedings, the unreliable “witnesses” blabbering and the rhetorical clashes between the court and the plaintiff. But with time it becomes almost an ontological debate about the nature of marriage and how the wheels of justice with regard to the institution turn painstakingly, infuriatingly slowly.

  • The film implies a great deal about what passes for normal in Israeli society, particularly in the Orthodox community. Just when Gett threatens to become overbearingly grim, it throws in a lighter moment (like testimony from Viviane’s dyed-blonde, heavily made-up sister), but it never strays far from its mission of pointing out the injustice of Israeli divorce laws. Fortunately, the Elkabetz siblings are closer to Jafar Panahi than Stanley Kramer.

  • One feels the oppressiveness of Israeli domestic law, but how one is supposed to feel about the subjects isn't clear; in Brechtian fashion, Elkabetz develops the characters almost exclusively through their own self-conscious rhetoric, which forces the viewer to treat each new revelation as a piece of evidence.

  • At a certain point, the film seems to be spinning its wheels, above and beyond the extent to which that's the whole point. Conclusion is heartbreaking, though, and the film's sole, fleeting glimpse of the outside world cuts deep.

  • Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz's Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem is part of a recent spate of excellent films about—and often by—Israeli women, including Zero Motivation, S#x Acts, andJellyfish. But while those others feature situations that could easily have played out in any industrialized Western nation, Gett's Viviane Amsalem (Ronit Elkabetz) is trapped by misogynistic religious laws that feel shockingly archaic.

  • As Viviane, Elkabetz is fascinating, wielding an incredible variety of contemptuous looks, and the rest of the cast (including Menashe Noy as her attorney) is well up to her standard. A couple of plot turns threaten to overload the drama, but overall this divorce is more riveting than many a murder trial.

  • All the performers are superb, though as the title suggests, this is Viviane’s show, and Ronit makes for an exceptional martyr (she gets a Passion Of Joan Of Arc-worthy close-up or two) who never loses her very human shadings.

  • This makes for gripping cinema from start to finish, almost implausibly so... With her dramatically pale face framed by a voluptuous dark cloud of hair, Ms. Elkabetz is never more effective than when she’s holding still, her face so drained of emotion that it transforms into a screen within the screen on which another, indelibly private movie is playing.

  • With "Gett, the Trial of Viviane Amsalem," siblings Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz prove that they rank with the finest filmmakers alive. Every shot, cut, line, performance, indeed every moment in this feature is perfectly judged, always conveying precisely what it needs to convey in order to define its characters and move the story forward.

  • Easy to make criticisms - it's a Message Movie with an obvious agenda; there's cartoonishness in the minor characters; the rules of court seem quite lax, so speeches become more personal as required by the script (the big attraction of courtroom drama has always been the way the setting imposes limitations, forcing the drama to negotiate them) - but in fact the film is riveting, with starkly effective staging and echoes of Passion of Joan of Arc which are both visual and thematic.

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