“Gett” a tense and torturous portrait of a failed marriage


“Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” is a tense and torturous journey through a failed marriage.

It is a Kafka-esque portrait of the maneuvering required for a woman to obtain a divorce from an Israeli rabbinical court. In Israel only rabbis can certify a marriage and its dissolution. The caveat is that both sides must agree, which becomes a maddening Catch-22 when one side refuses to cooperate.

aronit“Gett” chronicles the five-year ordeal of a woman, played by Ronit Elkabetz, to divorce the husband who will not let her go.

She has already moved out and moved on, and it’s unclear whether his intransigence is possessiveness or love. What is clear is a woman’s subordinate fate and role in the eyes of the law and the three-man court, which demand the couple reconcile.

Her only advocate is a persistent lawyer, played by Menashe Noy, whose own defiance, by the bearded tribunal’s traditional standards – he refuses to wear a skullcap – tests their patience as much as her refusal to be their definition of a good wife.

Her husband, played by Simon Abkarian, is heralded by his witnesses as a perfect man, but slowly it is revealed he is too perfect, intolerant of dissent and unforgiving.

Its like pulling teeth to get him to show up for court, his refusal to cooperate is the only power he still exerts over her, and the judges refuse to even hear the case in his absence.

Our expectations ebb and flow with each delay and the suffocating process pushes the wife to the point of exhaustion. To simply call “Gett” – the Hebrew word for divorce” – a courtroom drama diminishes it.

True it is physically rooted to two rooms, in which the raven haired Elkabetz, who gives a formidable performance, provides stark contrast to  the white walls while remaining invisible to the judges.

(Elkabetz, is an iconic Israeli actress and appeared in the films “The Band’s Visit” and “Late Marriage.”)

But Elkabetz, who cowrote and co-directed “Gett” with her brother Shlomi Elkabetz, uses the stark aesthetic to simulate the pressure cooker claustrophobia of a failed marriage.

It’s considerable dramatic twists are like the tightening noose of a hangman’s rope and resolution comes down to a compromise that denies either side victory.

Only spouses know a marriage’s secrets. The wrenching “Gett” exposes them to the harsh light of day.

Three and one half stars ***1/2

With Ronit Elkabetz, Simon Abkarian, Mehashe Noy, Dalia Beger, Eli Gornstein, Sasson Gabai, Rami Danon, Shmil Ben Ari. Produced by Sandrine Brauer, Denis Carot, Shlomi Elkabetz, Marie Masmonteil. Written and directed by Ronit Elkabetz, Shlomi Elkabetz. Not rated, mature theme. Approximate running time: 115 minutes. In Hebrew with English subtitles.

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