FILL THE VOID
The youngest of an Orthodox Hassidic family in Tel Aviv, 18 year old Shira (Hadas Yaron) is about to be married off to a promising young man of the same age and Shira feels prepared and excited. On Purim (Jewish celebration of deliverance from massacre in the ancient Persian Empire), her 28 year old sister, Esther (Renana Haz), dies while giving birth to her first child. The pain and grief that overwhelm the family postpone Shira's wedding. Everything changes when an offer is proposed to match Yochay (Yiftach Klein) - the late Esther's husband - to a widow from Belgium. Yochay feels it's too early, although he realizes that sooner or later he must seriously consider getting married again. When the girls' mother, Rivka (Irit Sheleg) finds out that Yochay may leave the country with her only grandchild, she proposes a match between Shira and the widower. Shira will have to choose between her heart's wish and her family duty ...
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Fill The Void - if not the greatest title - is a terrific example of 'through the specific to the universal' - an excursion into the Hassidic community in Tel Aviv, a pious sect within Judaism founded in 18th century Eastern Europe as a reaction against overly the religious aspects of the faith. Feelings and emotions are crucial to this community, and filmmaker Rama Burshtein wants to expose it in a sincere and mature way. To do so, she has written a screenplay about a young girl's marriage dilemma in the wake of her married sister's death.
Marriage and weddings are a common device for filmmakers (Four Weddings & A Funeral, just to mention one in a different context) - and for good reason. This is the meeting place for social and personal futures, for the enactment of rituals that confirm the foundations of society. For many cultures, such as these Hasidic Jews, marriage is an important, symbolic, powerful, public as well as private event with implications for family nurturing and social connection.
When 18 year old Shira (Hadas Yaron) is propositioned by her own mother, Rivka (Irit Sheleg), to marry the newly widowed match Yochay (Yiftach Klein); she is reluctant. She would be taking the place of her much loved, late older sister. Yaron's large liquid eyes are a saucer of emotion and the entire supporting cast is superb, notably acclaimed Israeli actress Irit Sheleg as her mother Rivka.
The film also underlines the importance and power of the Rabbi (Melech Thal), a benign Godfather-like figure dispensing favours and wisdom.
While it is Shira's journey, we are taken into the heart of this family and this community. Their embrace is quite claustrophobic, intentionally so, but if we care to look, their funny hats and weird hairdos don't camouflage the recognisable human characteristics we readily understand. For me, that is the film's most enduring and most important message.
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FILL THE VOID (PG)
Lemale Et Ha' Halal
CAST: Hadas Yaron, Yiftach Klein, Irit Sheleg, Chaim Sharir, Razia Israely, Hila Feldman, Renana Raz,
PRODUCER: Assaf Amir
DIRECTOR: Rama Burshtein
SCRIPT: Rama Burshtein
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Asaf Sudry
EDITOR: Sahron Elovic
MUSIC: Yitzhak Azulay
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ori Aminov
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 28, 2013