(a deeply freeing and “comparison to MARRIAGE STORY” film review by Timothy J. Verret)
There must have been at least a million times while watching GETT: THE TRIAL OF VIVIANE AMSALEM that I desperately wanted to turn away from the TV screen, because it was incredibly grueling to watch Viviane Amsalem waiting and waiting and waiting (we’re talking years!) to get a divorce from her husband. You see, this happened in Israel under a patriarchal judging system that lived up to its name, i.e., men first, women last. Did she finally get that divorce? I sure won’t tell you. That would be cheating you out on watching the film to feel what I felt.
GETT: THE TRIAL OF VIVIANE AMSALEM is a two-hour film of thrills that put to shame any “action film.” I care not at all for “action films” unless the action is about the human condition. It is completely suspenseful for me to watch characters (and not scenery) “blow up.” To watch characters grimacing and huffing and puffing and even screaming as they struggle and suffer to understand what freedom really means and what it must taste like. The close-ups in this film are very reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman’s infamous close-ups in his films. The technique and motivation of this is also similar to Bergman, i.e., we see it all in the face and the characters have nowhere to hide and neither do the film viewers have anywhere to hide.
Much like the American film, MARRIAGE STORY, that I reviewed on this blogging website (https://timothyjverret.blog/2020/09/10/marriage-story-2019/), I had almost an identical experience while watching GETT: THE TRIAL OF VIVIANE AMSALEM. If you have not seen it, I invite you to watch MARRIAGE STORY (maybe as a double feature to this film, although I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy for the emotionally devastating and overwhelming nature it might invoke) and pay attention to Laura Dern’s lawyer speech when she talked about men being held to a higher standard, although these are the same ones who abandon their children (the absentee father, Joseph, of Jesus Christ) while the women are held to a lower standard, because they are expected to be the Virgin Mary. Dern knocked it out of the park with this analogy, and GETT: THE TRIAL OF VIVIANE AMSALEM has these same misinformed mother/father standards in place. “So, Viviane, you don’t love your husband, Elisha, right? And you want to divorce him, right? Why?” Not loving your husband should be the MAIN and maybe the ONLY reason to “gett” a divorce but not according to judges who need more to go on than just that. And also like MARRIAGE STORY, GETT: THE TRIAL OF VIVIANE AMSALEM has two adults in a divorce proceeding but there is one major difference. In MARRIAGE STORY, the two adults acted like children but the two adults, Viviane and Elisha, in GETT: THE TRIAL OF VIVIANE AMSALEM, have only one adult acting like a child, and that is Elisha. Vivian acts like a grown woman with grown-up problems, a grown woman seeking grown-up freedom. It’s only Elisha as a child saying, “if I can’t have you, no one ever will!”
Actress Ronit Elkabetz plays Vivian Amsalem, and her performance is revelatory. Elkabetz remains silent during most of the film, but her “loud” emotions are all over the screen. Elkabetz is strikingly beautiful, in my opinion, and yet she is drained of any external beauty, for her inner landscape mirrors for us a character who should just “give up” and yet that is the very last thing she is going to do. One scene that truly stood out for me was when during the courtroom proceedings, Vivian undoes her hair from a bun to let it fall down her shoulders. The judges in the court are furious at her for doing this, but we know Vivian is doing it because she can taste the freedom that might seem like miles and miles away were it not for her tenacity and drive to taste freedom, probably for the first time in her life. All the other actors are at the top of their game, even though I have never seen any of their other performances. I just know their acting couldn’t be any better than this.
GETT: THE TRIAL OF VIVIANE AMSALEM is about a woman filing for a divorce from her husband when a judicial system cannot comprehend the reasoning, but it’s really a film about freedom. It’s about being free to love again and maybe for the first time ever. It’s about a “conclusion to a judicial system,” a system of things that doesn’t work anymore. The judges in this judicial system might think it still works but when love is not present in this same system, how could it possibly ever work? Kind of ironic, if I’m being honest, to talk about this on Election Day in the United States of America. I refuse to vote on this day because I don’t support a worldly government, a “conclusion to a system” that no longer works for me, even though many others still believe it does, it can, and it will. They can have their vote, but I vote, “no,” when it comes to a vote in favor of hate, oppression, “I have more power than you,” “I have more money than you,” “I win and you lose.” No way will I EVER vote in the name of those “conclusions.”
I do vote, “yes,” for GETT: THE TRIAL OF VIVIANE AMSALEM. It’s a stunning film with stunning performances and a most stunning message of what freedom looks like and why everyone, including and maybe especially women, have every right to pursue it in the pursuit of love.