One reason to view FILL THE VOID, written and directed by Rama Burshtein, is the opportunity to view the clothing, the mannerisms, the singing (endless), and the other unique characteristics of Israel's ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community. For those who have never witness this spectrum of Judaism it is an eye-opening experience: religious law, tradition and the rabbi's word are absolute. Marriages are arranged and a woman's outside options are limited, as marriage is a central and crucial moment in their lives. Matches are arranged, decisions about whom to marry are critically important, but apparently the woman always has the right to turn down a prospective suitor. Of importance to note, Rama Burshtein comes form this community and her understanding of all the permutations is obvious.
Shira (Hadas Yaron), a devout 18-year-old Israeli, has come of age and is considering marriage, having met her first serious suitor Yossi (Ido Samuel). Shira's eldest sister Esther (Renana Raz) suddenly dies in childbirth leaving her grieving husband Yochay (the very handsome and talented Yiftach Klein) with a son and no mother to care for the infant. Despite his grief (and the grief of Shira's parents - Irit Sheleg and Chayim Sharir) Yochay decides he must marry. Shira's other sister Frieda (Hila Feldman) declares that Esther had informed her that should anything happen to Esther, Frieda should marry Yochay. Shira's mother, afraid that Yochay will take the offer from a Belgium woman to marry and thus move away with her grandson from Tel Aviv, encourages Shira to marry Yochay. Shira is conflicted, gains support from her armless unmarried aunt Hanna (Razia Israeli) who knows that in this community a woman MUST be married, and after much discussion among the Rabbi (Melech Thal) and the family and Yochay and Shira, a conversation between the couple seals their fate.
The acting is excellent, the cinematography often times seems flooded with light and slightly out of focus as if taken through layers of wedding veils (!), the costumes are amazing even they are the usual dress mode of this Hassidic community, and the attention to detail of such moments as Purim and Shabbat are immaculate. The seemingly endless amount of singing by the men does grow a bit wearisome and covers dialogue at times, but this is a fresh and fascinating view of love, traditions, and laws and the still viable personal choices in this colorful community. In Hebrew with English subtitles. Grady Harp, October 13