Not rated | Time: 1:15
In Hebrew, French and Arabic, with subtitles
In “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,” Viviane is merely seeking a divorce, but as the title suggests, she might as well be on trial for her life.
That’s the absurdist but eerily true premise behind this provocative Israeli feature film, which takes us to the world of the Jewish religious courts, a place where only rabbis can decree a divorce and where husbands wield stupefying power.
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Viviane (Ronit Elkabetz, electrifying) has been trying to get a divorce (a gett) for three years, but her spouse, Elisa (Simon Abkarian, very good), simply won’t allow it, though he doesn’t really bother to explain why. Viviane gets about as much respect from the judges as a head of cattle, and her frustration builds as Elisa repeatedly skips his court appearances.
The directors (Elkabetz and her brother, Shlomi) confine their film to basically one dingy room, making us feel the claustrophobic anguish of Viviane as she endures years of legal torture. It’s not a comfortable experience, nor was it intended to be.
Ronit Elkabetz commands the screen whether she’s quietly seething or lashing out at the judges and their pointed questions. Her plight provides painful argument that marriage — and divorce — are better served in the civil sphere.
(At the Glenwood Arts, Tivoli.)
| David Lewis
San Francisco Chronicle