Fill the Void
"Fill the Void" is an incredibly impressive first film - and not just because of the circumstances surrounding its making. Rama Burshtein made her directing debut with this Israeli melodrama, making her the first Orthodox Jewish woman to direct a wide release movie. However, that’s not nearly as notable as her film, which concerns religion intently without crossing into dogmatic territory. "Fill the Void" is the rare film that manages to contemplate religion without taking a side.
Hadas Yaron offers an evocatively restrained performance as Shira, a young girl in Israel who’s sincerely looking forward to her soon-to-be-confirmed arranged marriage. That’s until her sister tragically dies in childbirth - leading her mother to try to marry Shira away to her sister’s widow, hoping to retain a measure of connection with her now-motherless grandchild.
The film watches quietly as the cultural customs prevent our characters from lashing out or explicitly expressing themselves; instead forced to speak through a form of reserved code. Burshtein’s framing matches the emotions; she composes her characters stoically, rarely wavering her camera.
The DVD release allows you further insight into the process Burshtein used - and the challenges she faced - as a ’pioneer’ director. A "Writer’s Bloc Q&A" session shows her bantering about, but a feature-length commentary allows a much more revealing look into the text and subtext of the film.
"Fill the Void" is never oblique, but it also refuses to hold your hand - so hearing Burshtein go into further depth in regards to the religious customs and cultural signifiers strewn about her film is extremely informative. For once, a DVD release has as much to offer to those who have already seen a film as it does to those experiencing it for the first time.
"Fill the Void"