Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: First Trailer For Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’ Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley & Nicolas Cage Watch: First Trailer For Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’ Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley & Nicolas Cage 'Thor: The Dark World' Director Alan Taylor Says His Marvel Experience Was "Particularly Wrenching" 'Thor: The Dark World' Director Alan Taylor Says His Marvel Experience Was "Particularly Wrenching" Watch: Anna Paquin Is Rescued In Clip From 'X-Men: Days of Future Past - The Rogue Cut' Watch: Anna Paquin Is Rescued In Clip From 'X-Men: Days of Future Past - The Rogue Cut' Kevin Feige Says 'Spider-Man 2' Is "One Of The Best Superhero Movies Ever," Talks John Hughes Influence On New Spidey Kevin Feige Says 'Spider-Man 2' Is "One Of The Best Superhero Movies Ever," Talks John Hughes Influence On New Spidey Watch: Live Your Ultimate Fantasy With The First NSFW Trailer For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' Watch: Live Your Ultimate Fantasy With The First NSFW Trailer For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' Review & Recap: ‘True Detective’ Season 2, Episode 2, ‘Night Finds You’ Review & Recap: ‘True Detective’ Season 2, Episode 2, ‘Night Finds You’ Terrence Malick’s ‘Knight Of Cups’ Won’t Arrive Until 2016, Austin Music Scene Drama Not Titled ‘Weightless’ Terrence Malick’s ‘Knight Of Cups’ Won’t Arrive Until 2016, Austin Music Scene Drama Not Titled ‘Weightless’ The Punisher Will Reportedly Appear As The Villain In ‘Daredevil’ Season 2 The Punisher Will Reportedly Appear As The Villain In ‘Daredevil’ Season 2 'Lucy 2' And 'Colombiana 2' Are In Development 'Lucy 2' And 'Colombiana 2' Are In Development Mixed Reactions For Marvel's 'Ant-Man' After First Press Screening Plus New Promos And Pics Mixed Reactions For Marvel's 'Ant-Man' After First Press Screening Plus New Promos And Pics The Essentials: The 5 Best Rachel McAdams Performances The Essentials: The 5 Best Rachel McAdams Performances Watch: Tom Hardy Does Double Duty In Trailer For Gangster Drama 'Legend' Watch: Tom Hardy Does Double Duty In Trailer For Gangster Drama 'Legend' The 25 Best TV Shows Of The 2014/2015 Season The 25 Best TV Shows Of The 2014/2015 Season Kevin Feige Says 'Spider-Man' Is "Definitely A Sony Picture," Talks Role Of 'Ant-Man' In Phase 3, More Kevin Feige Says 'Spider-Man' Is "Definitely A Sony Picture," Talks Role Of 'Ant-Man' In Phase 3, More The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 10 All-Time Best Episodes Of 'Parks And Recreation' The 10 All-Time Best Episodes Of 'Parks And Recreation' The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: 'Fill The Void' An Orthodox Jewish Romance Caught Awkwardly Between Comedy & Melodrama

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist May 21, 2013 at 6:20PM

After a Cannes Film Festival which attracted criticism for including no female directors whatsoever, new Venice Film Festival head Alberto Barbera seems to be having bit of a dig at his Gallic rivals with his first year in charge. In the official selection alone, there are four female directors or co-directors, and plenty more in the various sidebars. Perhaps most notably are some from the Middle East. “Wadjda” is the first film ever made in Saudi Arabia, and that it’s made by a female director, Haifaa Al Mansour, in a country not known for its acceptance of women in positions of power is rather extraordinary (word is the film’s pretty good too: unfortunately, other commitments kept us from seeing it here, but we plan to catch up elsewhere.)
0
"Fill The Void"
"Fill The Void"

After a Cannes Film Festival which attracted criticism for including no female directors whatsoever, new Venice Film Festival head Alberto Barbera seems to be having bit of a dig at his Gallic rivals with his first year in charge. In the official selection alone, there are four female directors or co-directors, and plenty more in the various sidebars. Perhaps most notably are some from the Middle East. “Wadjda” is the first film ever made in Saudi Arabia, and that it’s made by a female director, Haifaa Al Mansour, in a country not known for its acceptance of women in positions of power is rather extraordinary (word is the film’s pretty good too: unfortunately, other commitments kept us from seeing it here, but we plan to catch up elsewhere.)

On a very different tack, there’s “Fill The Void,” or “Lemale Et Ha’Chalalal,” the first film from New York-born filmmaker Rama Burshtein, who is a member of the Orthodox Jewish community in Israel. Burshtein has devoted most of the last 20 years teaching and making film in that world, but here makes her international feature debut with a curious comedy-drama that has its strengths, but ultimately proves somewhat disappointing.

In Tel Aviv in the present day, Shira (Hadas Yaron), daughter of rabbi Aharon (Chaim Sharir) has just turned eighteen and is in the earliest stages of being matched with a man that, if all goes well, she’ll be married to (although she hasn’t met him yet.) Her older sister Esther (Ranana Raz), has been married to Yochay (Yiftach Klein) for a few years, and is about to give birth to her first child. Tragically Esther dies in childbirth, leaving a distraught Yochay to care for the baby alone.

Fill The Void small

There’s pressure from the community for him to remarry soon and a potential match soon emerges, a widow with two children of her own, who lives in Belgium. Fearing the prospect of her grandchild being moved away, Esther’s mother Ritka (Irit Sheleg) suggests that he marries Shira instead.

It’s essentially a sort of Jane Austen-ish marriage plot – will Shira give into the wishes of her family and marry Yochay, who’s warming to the idea? Or will she let her brother-in-law take her nephew to Belgium so she can find a more suitable match, someone closer to her own age, as her independently-minded great-aunt Hanna advocates? At the start at least, the premise is quite promising.

As you might expect, Burshtein has a real eye for the world and its rituals, allowing the camera to see things that can’t have been seen by too many outsiders. There’s a real warmth and humanity to the characters established in the early stages, from Shira gossiping about her prospective match, to her father giving out money to those with troubles at Purim (his relationship with local widower Mr. Shtrecher [Michael David Weigl] is a particularly touching note.) Across the film, the characters are well drawn and complex, be it Yochay, who sneaks out for cigarettes every so often, or Ritka, whose ambivalence about what she asks her daughter to do subtly shines through.

Fill The Void small

It’s a shame then, that the narrative the characters are given isn’t quite so successful. Tonally, the film awkwardly straddles fluffy comedy and grief-stricken melodrama, hopping from one mode to other scene to scene. The comedy is often charming, and far more successful than the more sombre, slightly inelegantly-written melodrama, but it’s the way the two butt together that really sinks the picture – the laughs come at the expense of the stakes of the drama, and the more serious moments make it tougher to laugh at the comedy.

Technically, too, Burshtein has a lot of room for improvement. The whole film is shot (on what looks like RED cameras) with a sickly, overlit soft-focus sheen that makes it look like a dream sequence in a Lifetime movie, and while some of her shot compositions are strong, it  become borderline unwatchable at times. The film’s also scored by curious, barbershop/a capella versions of traditional Jewish prayers; they are bouncy enough, but they also manage to undermine the drama fairly successfully.

The inherent contradictions in the film’s sheer existence are kind of interesting – Burshtein writes in her director’s statement that “Love and relationships form the main object of my interests. To be honest, careerism, independence, and self-fulfillment are less important to me than love, my husband and my family,” and without giving it away too much, that’s something that’s reflected in her film itself. It rankled at first, but there’s certainly a kind of courage in the way the film unabashedly follows this argument, even if we wouldn’t advocate it ourselves. Even that makes the film qualify only as a curio really – for the most part the filmmaking isn’t good enough to elevate it into anything more. [C-]

This is a reprint of our review from the 2012 Venice Film Festival. "Fill The Void" opens on Friday.

This article is related to: Fill The Void, Reviews, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates