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Genres: Drama
Actors: Yaël Abecassis , Yoram Hattab , Meital Barda , Uri Klauzner , Yussuf Abu-Warda , Leah Koenig , Sami Huri , Rivka Michaeli , Samuel Calderon , Noa Dori , Shireen Kadivar
Director: Amos Gitai
Country: Israel, France
Year: 1999
IMDB Rating: 6.9/10 (1233 votes)

The year 2000 approaches in Jerusalem’s Orthodox Mea Shearim quarter, where the women work, keep house, and have children so the men can study the Torah and the Talmud. Rivka is happily and passionately married to Meir, but they remain childless. The yeshiva’s rabbi, who is Meir’s father, wants Meir to divorce Rivka: “a barren woman is no woman.” Rivka’s sister, Malka, is in love with Yakov, a Jew shunned by the yeshiva as too secular. The rabbi arranges Malka’s marriage to Yossef, whose agitation when fulfilling religious duties approaches the grotesque. Can the sisters sort out their hearts’ desires within this patriarchal world? If not, have they any other options?

Film Review

I would agree that this film progresses at a very slow pace but the story about the secretive world of orthodox Judaism is interesting. In spite of being traditionalist Hassidism is relatively modern to the long history of the Jewish religion being formed amongst Eastern European Jewry in the 18th century, partly as a reaction to anti-semitism and secularism.The director Amos Gitai has taken on a very difficult task in portraying this sect of Judaism. What is put across well is the incompatibility of conservative traditionalism with a secular society and how suffocating and repressive religious strictures can be. A good story but one that could have shown in more detail the contrasts between the reality of secular Israeli society and the closed world of mysticism.

I don't read this film as a simple condemnation of the ultra-orthodox or the treatment of women in some of those communities. The male lead is an extremely empathic character who one cannot but sympathize with as his life is slowly (spoiler!) destroyed by the dictates of his faith – as conveyed by his absolute spiritual leader. The sweet marriage of two people who are very hard not to love, torn apart simply by that faith's dictate that a marriage must bear children, and the contrast with hollow dutiful insincere marriages, even the one the male lead is forced into with a stunning younger woman, makes the viewer ache for this pair to be free of the tyranny. But they're kept in it by their own conditioning, their own inability to question. The minimal but erotic contact with the secular Israeli society is compelling but it doesn't really make either world look that appealing.Is this typical of ultra-orthodox lives? I very much doubt it. Does it have something to say abo…

This is the film to see if you want to commit suicide but feel you're just not depressed enough to do the deed.Everything about the film is well done. Looks good, music is nice. The religious scenes have a documentary feel. It's hard to imagine that they did not film actual people in actual settings. (Maybe they did.) Anyway, this film is unremittingly depressing with no end in sight. It forces one to think that anyone who lives the Hassidic life is insane (and maybe they are, I don't know because I don't know any Hassidics.) When the film was finally over and I saw where it was leaving off I felt really sad. So if you're wanting to be sad, here's your film.


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