Gett: The Trial Of Viviane Amsalem

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Gett: The Trial Of Viviane Amsalem

“A man is always on trial,” intones a solemn rabbi in Gett, one of the film’s few out-and-out ironic laughs. Most of the time, though, you’ll be quaking with rage. It’s not a man but Late Marriage’s soulful Ronit Elkabetz (also cowriter and director with her brother Shlomi) who stands before a trio of male judges, petitioning the court and her infuriatingly stubborn husband for what’s commonly known as a divorce. In Israel’s current legal system, though, ruled by ancient custom, such requests take on the pie-in-the-sky likelihood of asking Bono for world peace.

We start in a white room as lawyers and representatives discuss the matter; it’s minutes before the camera gets around to our seething heroine, Viviane (Elkabetz), a sly piece of visual diminishment. But Gett truly picks up emotional steam once you realize that we’re never going to leave that room, even as the months pass and we hear every kind of banal waffling and excuse intended to extend the process into a multiyear saga that would sap the most devoted bureaucrat. The acting, especially from Menashe Noy as an ineffectual attorney, is phenomenal, resulting in a feminist knockout told in inverse.

Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf

By: Joshua Rothkopf


Release details

Rated: N/R
Release date: Friday February 13 2015
Duration: 115 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Ronit Elkabetz, Shlomi Elkabetz
Screenwriter: Ronit Elkabetz, Shlomi Elkabetz
Cast: Ronit Elkabetz
Simon Abkarian
Menashe Noy
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Gett:  [Hebrew]  a divorce document in Jewish religious law, which must be presented by a husband to a wife to affect their divorce.

Imagine yourself living in Israel where civil marriage doesn’t exist.  In order to be granted a divorce, you must petition the Rabbinical court and justify the dissolution of your marriage.  It is then up to a panel of elderly men to pick apart the details of your personal life and determine the future of your family.  If this sounds like an asylum atmosphere, it is.

Gett chronicles the frustrating five-year trial of Viviane Amsalem who is navigating a patriarchal system which puts her on trial as if she were a felon.  During this trial, the Rabbis can’t fathom why Viviane wants to divorce a good man.  “A good man” because he has a job, doesn’t beat her, gamble, enforce the wearing of a Sheitel (wig) or imprison her within the confines of their home (he generously allows her to leave the house with the children).  Unable to comprehend the notion of incompatibility, non sequiturs dominate the courtroom proceedings.

The maddening, oppressive culture is communicated through heavy dialog, as the entire film is set in two sparsely decorated rooms: the courtroom and the waiting room.  Suggestive camerawork conveys Viviane’s progressive lifestyle by focusing on her scandalously bare calves while the men in the room discuss her “enviable style”.

It is subtleties like this that earned Gett a 2015 Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.  Written & directed by the brother-sister pair Shlomi and Ronit Elkabetz, Ronit does a fantastic job acting in the lead role.  Not an uplifting film, it is applauded for its minimalism and ability to glimpse into an archaic legal system entwined with religious rhetoric.