Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:
“Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” intends to condemn the divorce laws of Israeli, yet it’s more interesting for the debate it poses between personal liberty and traditional authoritarianism. What is the last movie to put the former value-system on trial? The movie, written and directed by siblings Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz, is at its best when it’s at its most impartial. When it’s proselytizing for women’s rights, it’s often a bit ridiculous, all the more so because the female Elkabetz — she’s the co-writer, co-director, and star — portrays the yearning-to-be-divorced Viviane as a rigid pillar of contempt. We’re meant to take this rigidity as noble, and to sympathize with Viviane because she hasn’t been given what she’s asking for. Elkabetz, who looks something like a Semitic Valkyrie, has no trouble evoking nobility, but she either takes your sympathy for granted or is incapable of drawing you into a character — her Viviane is a shrill, inelegant slab of characterization, more a feminist figurehead than a person. (It doesn’t help that Elkabetz’s face is sometimes held in long close-up, a device that seems intended, like much of the movie, to evoke Dreyer’s “Joan.” Are the Elkabetzes suggesting that traditional marriage entails female martyrdom?) The filmmaking, though, is quite effective, especially in the way it allows an image of Viviane’s marriage to coalesce out of the reliable back-and-forth form of the courtroom procedural. And the Elkabetzes are sensitive and generous enough to give substantial voice to the opposition: Viviane’s husband, ably portrayed by Simon Abkarian, is never demonized, and he has the familiarly pathetic quality of a man whose wife has gone sour on him. (Abkarian succeeds in making him read as both high-handed and hurt.) The frankness and evenhandedness that comes through in the cataloging of the couple’s gripes yields an appealingly untidy sketch of humanity — one that I found far richer than that offered by the message-bound figure of Viviane.