Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (NR)

Drama 115 min. February 13, 2015
By Simon Abrams
Wrenching Israeli divorce drama Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem's strict focus on courtroom sparring constantly threatens the film's fine balance of gorgeously lensed, body-language-centric reaction shots and expertly paced interrogatory dialogue scenes. We don't get to see estranged couple Elisha (Ararat's Simon Abkarian) and Viviane (co-writer/-director Ronit Elkabetz) interact with each other, their loved ones, or their respective counselors beyond adversarial questions and recriminatory glances. But Gett never devolves into a trite shout-fest because its creators are more interested in the slow, painful wearing-away of Viviane's and Elisha's respective defenses than they are in either boosting her or belittling him.

Elisha is, in this context, a hateful antagonist, as he frequently refuses to appear before the court and unequivocally denies any wrongdoing, making it impossible for ultra-orthodox Rabbi Solomon (Eli Gornstein) to defer to Viviane's needs. Thankfully, Elisha's spiteful character is revealed subtly through insinuation and speculation during heated trial interviews: Viviane reluctantly assents when her advocate Carmel (Menashe Noy) asks why she and Elisha stopped having sex: "You wanted and he refused?"

While that loaded question is the crux of Gett's punishing drama, the film never devolves into finger-wagging hysterics thanks to Ronit and brother/co-director Shlomi Elkabetz's keen attention to their actors' performances, especially Ronit's star turn. She photographs herself through wide-angle lenses that emphasize sullen glares and faraway looks that make it seem as if Viviane's slowly vanishing before our eyes. Ronit's remarkable sensitivity makes Gett a tough but essential melodrama.
Ronit Elkabetz, Shlomi Elkabetz Ronit Elkabetz, Simon Abkarian, Menashe Noy, Sasson Gaba, Eli Gornstein, Albert Iluz, Keren Morr, Evelyn Hagoel, Gabi Amrani, Rami Dano Sivan Lavy Marie Masmonteil, Sandrine Brauer, Shlomi Elkabetz Music Box Films

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