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TIFF Capsule Review: 'Fill the Void'

By David D'Arcy | Thompson on Hollywood September 10, 2012 at 8:06AM

In the ultra-orthodox world of Jerusalem, Shira is 18 and plays the accordion in a kindergarten, and her family wants her to marry. She and her mother have their eyes on a handsome young man, but things get complicated when her older sister, Esther, dies in childbirth, and Esther’s husband, solemn, bearded Yochay, the father of a new baby, becomes the next eligible man. Director Rama Burshtein, the first woman from a Hasidic background to make a feature film, views Shira’s predicament from inside a religious community. Unlike the exposures of abuse and oppression that can be found in recent documentaries about women forced by orthodox men to follow the strictest of rules, "Fill the Void" operates more like a story by Edith Wharton about a woman pressured to grow up quickly in the only world she knows. As men and women meet -- separately, of course -- to make decisions that will govern the rest of Shira’s life, she struggles to make up her own mind, knowing that, in a community where women have an inferior status to men, unmarried women are the inferiors among inferiors. Burshtein is a teacher of film to students from orthodox backgrounds in Israel. "Fill the Void" is shot mostly in tight interiors or in vivid, often elegant close-ups by DP Asaf Sudry that bring an intimacy to this closed world without softening its hard barriers or condemning its intolerance. The storytelling is deliberate, nuanced and memorable, but don’t expect anything reassuring. Criticwire grade: A [David D'Arcy]
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In the ultra-orthodox world of Jerusalem, Shira is 18 and plays the accordion in a kindergarten, and her family wants her to marry. She and her mother have their eyes on a handsome young man, but things get complicated when her older sister, Esther, dies in childbirth, and Esther’s husband, solemn, bearded Yochay, the father of a new baby, becomes the next eligible man. Director Rama Burshtein, the first woman from a Hasidic background to make a feature film, views Shira’s predicament from inside a religious community. Unlike the exposures of abuse and oppression that can be found in recent documentaries about women forced by orthodox men to follow the strictest of rules, "Fill the Void" operates more like a story by Edith Wharton about a woman pressured to grow up quickly in the only world she knows. As men and women meet -- separately, of course -- to make decisions that will govern the rest of Shira’s life, she struggles to make up her own mind, knowing that, in a community where women have an inferior status to men, unmarried women are the inferiors among inferiors. Burshtein is a teacher of film to students from orthodox backgrounds in Israel. "Fill the Void" is shot mostly in tight interiors or in vivid, often elegant close-ups by DP Asaf Sudry that bring an intimacy to this closed world without softening its hard barriers or condemning its intolerance. The storytelling is deliberate, nuanced and memorable, but don’t expect anything reassuring. Criticwire grade: A [David D'Arcy]

This article is related to: Fill the Void, Toronto International Film Festival, Reviews, Rama Burshtein