Notes on “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem”

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.

About Fabrizio del Wrongo

Recovering liberal arts major. Unrepentant movie nut. Aspiring boozehound.
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3 Responses to Notes on “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem”

  1. Fenster says:

    I enjoyed the anthropology of it more than the things you typically associate with film. Yes it is a dramatization but it does aspire in its earnestness to characterize a particular place, time and culture, and it bends an American mind in interesting ways to see how familiar arrangements are carried out in a place that many of us think of as a kissin cousin. I found I had to not only do the regular work of deciphering plot, understanding characterizations and such but also to then separately translate into a different culture. As a result it was hard to render firm judgments about good guys and bad guys.

    BTW this is film three of a trilogy in the Linklater “Before” series vein. I have gone back in time to the second of the three, where the marriage is under pressure but not yet kaput, and sure enough all of the complexities of character found in the end game are there in the middle, too. And again, it was better anthro than entertainment. You could call it maybe Before Sunrise, Sunset.


  2. Y says:

    Haven’t seen the film yet but Simon Abkarian is always great.

    Have you seen the French TV show “Pigalle, la nuit”? It’s officially about a Frenchman trying to find his missing sister, who was last seen as a high-class stripper in Pigalle, but the show is stolen by Abkarian as the Arab owner of the strip club who is dealing with his own issues. It’s very French, very sexy and very UR.


  3. Pingback: Double Feature: “Hope and Glory” and “Queen and Country” | Uncouth Reflections

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