“GETT: THE TRIAL OF VIVIANE AMSALEM” IS A TIMELESS MASTERPIECE
The film is rich in humor, amazing periods of absurdity, and hypocrisy but with just one swift facial annotation from Elkabetz, the audience understands when to afford her compassion, humility, and pity.
There’s a reason why women are partial to nearly every artistic outline of a free woman. It’s a beautiful trope because much of orderly societies demand the surrender of women’s agency. So, at one point in time, every woman will desire a semblance of this, even in passing. Ronit Elkabetz’s role as Viviane Amsalem in Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem is enduring for this very reason. Amsalem represents a woman’s plight.
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem trails Amsalem 30 years after her marriage to her husband Elisha (Simon Abkarian), as she seeks to earn a gett: a religious divorce article, to finally leave her troubled marriage. The movie is the third installment of a trilogy, after “To Take A Wife” in 2004 and “Seven Days” in 2008. Cowritten and directed by siblings Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz, Gett is astonishing. Elkabetz’s performance is so immersive she makes you wear her emotions.
The film centers on the limiting nature of the Israeli rabbinical law and how it’s intrinsic sexism damages women while serving and protecting the interests of men. In Gett, we discover the fluctuations and tediousness that often exhaust women from seeking reprieve from a marriage that doesn’t serve them. Amsalem is just over 50 when she finally seeks council from the Israeli court to leave her marriage. It’s a right of passage, something that is critical to recognizing a marriage for those of Israeli origins whether secular or religious and also, whether you live in Israel or not. Everyone bows to the traditions in the rabbinical court, even Amsalem, a beautiful hair dresser.
She was tired of decades of incompatibility of values and morals that made her a prisoner in her own home. So, in Gett, Amsalem pleads for her freedom, a freedom she’s understood to be owed to her but which all the men in court believe they’re entitled to. The film is rich in humor, amazing periods of absurdity, and hypocrisy but with just one swift facial annotation from Elkabetz, the audience understands when to afford her compassion, humility, and pity.
Gett is a masterpiece. There is hardly a single flaw in the entire work, everything blends together so seamlessly, Amsalem’s world feels piercingly material. Her distress is devastating in a way that lingers because of how raw and realistic the story is, down to the transition between the accents and languages spoken by different characters in the film. Actually, the story is real, it draws inspirations from the modern troubles that Israeli women face when trying to divorce their husbands. As Shlomi Elkabetz noted in an interview, the attention to details on the diverse Jewish experience was intentional to expose the difference between life for Arab Jews from Arab countries to Europeans Jews and how this variance in culture can cause discord, demonstrating that often rationality can be lost in translation as a result.
The movie is Kafkaesque, bewildering Amsalem and the audience with an unvarnished look at the unnecessarily complex rabbinical law that frustrates its benefactors with a muddled bureaucracy. Unlike the American judicial system, which, though plagued with its own troubles, allows for an easier opportunity to sever relationships, in the rabbinical court, Amsalem has to plead her case to three rabbis. Through illogical and discursive directions, they extend her efforts for separation for many many years. During which time, Amsalem becomes increasingly impatient which she demonstrates through her clothing and hairstyles, slowing becoming resplendent, as she opts for more flamboyant, assertive styling and drapery to signal her resistant and her transformation to what they fear most, a maverick. Still, she’s only allowed to speak when spoken to, so since she’s asked to minimize and contain expression in front of the tribunal, her gestures, clothing, and demeanour act as her voice until she can finally say “give me my freedom!”
Probably the most striking part about the entire film is that it’s largely shot in one white room, suggesting the importance of virtue. Amsalem is beautiful and adorned with colour but still maintains a sense of purity about her to remind the viewer about the importance of being polished and how her perceived integrity determines her fate. As the three rabbis judge her and her lawyer (Menashe Noy), the audience gain a wide perspective of every personality and angle to also eschew their own judgment. This has the effected of drawing the audience closer to the story and in manifesting an intrigue into the curious issues between Elisha and Amsalem, that would have her fight for a separation in the first place. Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz are artful at encouraging a tension and an exacerbated need for understanding which boils over at the end of Gett, when Amsalem finally gets a judgment. Although the finale yields a polarizing result, making the viewer question how they should react, this dissonance is dimmed so that we absorb her quiet but tragic triumph. It’s then that you can finally let out a breath and digest the truly horrid system that would have her impair herself, just to be seen as human. Gett gives you a shock to the system; it’s truly harrowing.