“Fill The Void” (2012): 4*+ movie, but questions….

Posted by RDN under Mind & body / On movies on 15 January 2014

As many reviewers have said, and I think Frank Kermode in the Guardian is about right, this is a richly-involving movie with a decent narrative in which paint-dryer and something close to a domestic thriller are combined. Comparisons with Jane Austen are justified. But there is a question as to political correctness, too…

Most reviewers seem to suggest that our heroine, Shira Mendelman, has to decide whether she should accede to the request of her family and her community and marry Yochay, the widower of her late elder sister, Esther. But actually, nearly  everyone in her world is against Shira’s mother’s plan. Even Yochay is initially against it, though he comes round to Shira’s charms quite quickly. (Shira herself is enamoured of the idea of an arranged marriage, but with someone of her own age.) A charismatic aunt, backed-up by a friend of Esther’s, would rather the widower marry an older spinster who has so far failed herself and the community in not finding a husband. Her father (if I remember right) simply doesn’t think she wants to marry her erstwhile brother-in-law, and therefore shouldn’t. Her Rabbi is later seen agreeing and is against her mother’s plan.

All this is beautifully portrayed, and little by little we grow to like nearly everyone in the film and follow the twists and turns by which Shira comes [spoiler alert….] to want and get Yochay. She is seen coming to that conclusion for herself.

The film seems to portray the Hasidic community as posing no problems to ordinary Western mores. All is sweetness and light, though a little odd at first glance. Are things really this rosy? Of course it might not matter, indeed might be excellent, if Hasidism was a bit or very contrary to Western norms. But it does slightly matter if we are having the faith (or sect, or whatever is the proper word) spun to us though it were more acceptably liberal than it actually is.

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