Sunday 4 January 2015

Rama Burshtein's first film

P and I watched Fill the Void last night, an Israeli film about a Chassidic family going through a very difficult time. When it ended, I found myself saying: over and over "It is perfect, just perfect."

Like the interior of a jewel box, everything in it is beautiful, miniature, rich with feeling and textures. The characters are passionate, intimately portrayed, the discipline of their lives, the constant exercise of patience, modesty and humility. Much of what happens is understated or not expressed openly, and yet present.

I am particularly interested in the contribution of the Aunt without arms who so resembles her sister, the Mother. We witness a rare quarrel between them, during which the Aunt requests a glass of water, and while they stand face to face by the kitchen sink, the conversation between them shuttles to and fro unimpeded, the Mother holding the glass for the Aunt, who sips through a straw. There is no sense that the Aunt should be grateful nor that she is taking the help she receives for granted. The scene stands in for all the other complicated intimacies of her life, the dressing and undressing, the itching and scratching, the make-up (for both are always made-up, they are beautiful, strong women in their late 40s). No sense of effort, not in the asking for the water, not in the providing of the drink. The Mother completely assumes this burden, it appears to be weightless. It is a model of kindness without condescension, never mentioned between the characters. The Aunt is dependent, physically powerless and yet powerful in her presence as a complete person. She is not married, apparently content with her lot, in contrast to the unmarried women around her who suffer anguished throes about marriage or its elusiveness.

I loved the colours - a kind of golden glow throughout. Nothing appears cheap or tawdry. A wonderful script. Rama Burshtein, you have made a great film. Thank you!

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