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The Independent Critic

Ronit Elkabetz, Simon Abkarian
Shlomi and Ronit Elkabetz
115 Mins.
Music Box Films


 "GETT: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem" Opens at Keystone Arts 
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Sibling writers/directors Shlomi and Ronit Elkabetz's Golden Globe nominated Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem is opening up in Indianapolis this weekend at Indy's Keystone Art Cinema and it's very likely the best of the flock available to discerning Indy moviegoers.

Yes, it has subtitles. Get over it.

The film, which was Israel's official entry into the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, tells the story of an Israeli woman seeking a divorce, known as a gett, from her estranged husband but due to the extreme religious laws of her country finds herself effectively being the one put on trial. Essentially a powerhouse court drama, the film builds its drama around the fact that in Israel only Orthodox rabbis can legalize a marriage or authorize its dissolution. The real kicker? The husband MUST consent to the dissolution. Viviane, magnificently played by Ronit Elkabetz, has been trapped in a loveless marriage and applying for divorce for years, but her devout husband, Elisha (Simon Abkarian), has steadfastly refused.

Opening just a couple days after Indiana's own "Religious Freedom" legislation has controversially been signed into law by Governor Mike Pence, Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem may resonate even more deeply with Hoosiers troubled by the ways in which religion can be used and abused within our daily lives. Winner of the Israeli Film Academy Ophir Award for Best Picture, the film is an uncompromising and often uncomfortable portrait of a woman's struggle to overcome deeply institutionalized patriarchy in order to live a life of her design. Brought powerfully to life by Elkabetz (The Band's Visit, Late Marriage), one of Israel's finest actresses, Viviane will resonate deeply with any woman, perhaps any human, who has truly had to fight for their rights to live a life of their own choosing.

There are only a handful of actresses that I can even ponder tackling a role as demanding as that of Viviane, though after having seen Elkabetz here it's difficult to imagine anyone else in the role. She is simultaneously epic yet intimate in her portrayal, projecting the universality of her conflicts while never losing sight of the fact that this is one woman's story and she wears that story on her face and in her body language and in every word that she speaks.

It's truly an extraordinary performance.

There are supporting performances, of course. The dour Elisha is portrayed with a simple solemnity that is never unnecessarily dramatized by Simon Abkarian. While the two have several children, watching their dynamics it seems almost difficult to even fathom them shaking hands. Menashe Noy is superb as Carmel, Viviane's rather ineffectual counsel.

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem is ultimately Elkabetz's film, as star and co-writer and co-director. She embodies the power and the humanity that radiate throughout the film and she brings it all to life in a way that continues to envelope you even as you leave the theater. Ehud Gutterman's production design is sparse yet memorable, Jeanne Lapoirie's lensing somehow feels both overwhelming and underneath the skin.

Distributed by Music Box Films here in the U.S., Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem is a film that is both big enough and intimate enough that it deserves to be seen on the big screen. Do so while you have the chance.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic