Film review: Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

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By Henry Shires

Courtroom dramas have a long and exciting place within the history of the cinema from jury drama Twelve Angry Men directed by Hollywood Hall Of Famer Sydney Lumet with Henry Fonda in 1957 to divorce drama Kramer Versus Kramer with Dustin Hoffman in 1979.

Ironically the director of the former and the star, Dustin Hoffman, and setting of the latter, were all Jewish.

And now, 35 years later, another even more strongly Jewish courtroom drama, Gett The Trial Of Viviane Amsalem, is up there with both of them.

Taking place entirely within the claustrophobic confines of a modern yet incredibly arcane Israeli rabbinical court the film documents every hearing over a painstaking and equally painful five year trial.

Well known Israeli actress Ronit Elkabetz, despite the metaphorical gagging of this innately chauvinistic and sexist institution delivers a towering and barnstorming-despite-the-long-silences performance no less powerful than the far wordier one of Henry Fonda 50 years before.

However the element which most intrigues me about this incredible modern masterpiece is the very one which makes it most contentious.

How far do Israeli sibling writer directors Shlomi and Ronit Ekabetz intend this searing though incredibly even handed indictment of the rabbinical judicial system to extend to a critique of innate chauvinism within Israeli and even the wider, world-wide Jewish culture.

A question that, before I get myself in, over my head, into some extremely hot and ultimately contentious political waters, that I will leave to this incredibly talented Israeli actor/director duo.

But, suffice to say, that with all the world’s attention on the reported oppression of women within some Muslim cultures and societies, it is fascinating to see the parallels that appear to exist (at least from the evidence of this shocking documentation, if nothing else ) in the institutionalised treatment of women by one of their main accusers, Israeli.

A must see for critics and apologists for international male chauvinism like.

As well as any couple who have ever felt as if their relationship is ever, even sometimes, something of a trial.

Dedicated to my long suffering wife and fellow reviewer (of Books) Louise Avery, whom I have certainly given, albeit somewhat at least through no fault of my own, potential grounds for divorce. But who has never made recourse to it!


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