Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

In Israel there is no such thing as a civil marriage so it follows that there is no such thing as a civil divorce.  A rabbinical court or rabbis are the only ones who can do either. The word gett in the title of the film is the Hebrew word for divorce.  For a woman to obtain a divorce pretty much her husband has to grant the divorce and most men will not do that because it brings shame on them.  Being in a bad marriage is something they have to suffer with for most of their lives.  This is a film about a woman who will not accept that and fights for years for her freedom.

Mr. and Mrs. Ansalem have not lived together for three years. She wants a divorce.  He is refusing.  The case is now going to be heard in front a panel of rabbis.

Viviane (Ronit Elkabetz – The Band’s Visit, The Flood) lives with her brother, his wife and the wife’s sister.  She has supported herself as a hairdresser.  After hearing the story the rabbi rules that she should go home and try to save her marriage and family.  Viviane cries upon hearing the ruling, but she is not a woman who is going to give up.

What ensues is this woman and her lawyer Carmel (Menashe Noy) fight against a system that is not set up to give women a fair shake nor does it care much about anything other than keeping families together.  Despite the fact that the woman is obviously unhappy in her marriage, that she has tried for over twenty years and that her husband Elisha (Simon Elkabetz – Zero Dark Thirty, Casino Royale) boldly defies any of the rabbi’s orders (even to appear in court) dragging things on indeterminately it does not seem like it is going to come out in Viviane’s favour.

Almost the entirety of the film takes place in the small courtroom with its white walls and minimal furniture.  Ronit Elkabetz plays Viviane and for the most part she is a silent woman with admirable patience.  When things begin to drag on and on even she has her breaking points and erupts.  You might want to join her in yelling in fury at times.  The whole thing becomes torturous.  Her desire to be out of the marriage is played against her husband’s stone faced refusal to agree to it.  With Simon Elkabetz’s lack of expression on his face and stubborn nature you can see how difficult being married to this cold man could be.

Despite the lack of action or change of scenery the directors keep you interested via interesting camera angles or sudden viewpoints that make you question who is looking at Viviane that way.  Tension is created through the loggerhead between husband and wife as well as some great cinematography.

All told Viviane Ansalem invests three years of her life fighting for this divorce and the film makes us feel like we’ve been through it with her.  We feel the weight and length of the three long years.  Rather than being a chore it is really what makes the film that we feel the price she has paid.

You can watch this film on

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