on July 16, 2006
Amos Gitai sheds light on how stifling and confining it may be for some women living within a Hasidic religious community. It looks nearly impossible for them to live fulfilling and joyous lives. The film has a universal message which can apply to any religion or community which influences and advises its members in personal life matters that are, in this viewer's opinion, best left to be determined for one's self. In this film, two sisters lose their self-determination and are sadly compelled to follow the norms of the community ... just because they are women ... whose roles are proscribed. They are to obey the man and be dependent rather than self-determining individuals. The community is run by men who define behavioral norms based on passages from the Torah. The rabbi interprets how these passages are to be understood in modern life. The community influences the lives of its members to a degree most viewers would find highly objectionable and down right intrusive. Whether or not this is a truthful depiction of the Hasidic way of life is unclear to this viewer but the point which is crystal clear by the director is that some areas of life are *indeed* *sacred* and are no one's business but one's own. This is a totally compelling and fascinating film in how it unravels, unbalances and destroys the lives of an apparently happily married couple who are childless after 10 years of marriage. Both Meir, the husband, and Rivka, the wife, are heart-broken after the rabbi at the Yeshiva compels Meir to consider divorcing Rivka in favor of an arranged marriage ... to produce offspring ... evidently his "sacred" duty to G-d. It is not at all clear why *only* Rivka is blamed for this flaw ...
The klezmer music at the beginning and throughout much of the film proclaims the joys of life and its meandering mournful paths as well ... the sadder tunes reveal the future anguish of Meir and Rivka as they sort out their problems within the expectations of their religion. Sadly, Malka who is Rivka's sister is not looking forward to an arranged marriage to Yosef because Malka has a boyfriend Yakov who had left the Yeshiva and religious community to pursue a secular life. He sang a haunting tune in a nightclub about how love can not be fulfilled in this world but instead he will meet his lover in the next one ... Malka obeys her parents and marries Yosef but her marriage life is a sham despite going to ritual baths to become spiritually more clean and praying as required. She follows her heart and breaks her sacred marriage bond by secretly meeting with Yakov for a tryst. The film shows Yosef to be an unthinking and insensitive man which is not entirely his fault but he is also brutish which again, he may not be able to change. He entered into a marriage for the wrong reasons - just as Malka became an obedient daughter rather than showing courage and breaking with tradition to do what is in her own best interests to follow her heart and mind ... even if it meant being banished from the Hasidic community. This film does indeed film less than joyful moments in the lives of its characters, the clothes and colors worn by the women, the older brick buildings and narrow passageways in the streets ... all are symbolic of a lifestyle which makes the insides of its members crumble and breakdown ... Who should decide in the final analysis of what is important in life? Erika Borsos (pepper flower)
on May 4, 2004
There was a request for more factual refutation of the falsities of Kadosh--
The movie's premises are:
a. that Orthodox Judaism, which is based on the Talmud, is discriminatory to women, particularly married women
b. that the Talmud considers a barren woman useless and requires her to divorce her husband
c. that a woman may be compelled to marry against her will
I have been unable to find any substantiation whatsoever for either (b) or (c). Either way, neither of these practices exists in the Orthodox Jewish community today.
Regarding (a) - it is true that much of contemporary Orthodox Jewish practice is based on the Talmud; however, the Talmud is not as bloodthirsty as it is often portrayed. Although compiled in Babylonia c. 450 CE, the Talmud explains that if a Jewish court issued the death penalty once in seventy years, that court was considered unusually violent (compare e.g. modern Texas...) Although it neither adds to nor subtracts from the laws set forth in the Pentateuch, the Talmud defines the terms thereof so narrowly that some punishments are rendered quite impossible to give (e.g. the Talmud itself states that the death penalty for a 'gluttonous and rebellious son' mentioned in the Pentateuch, due to the narrow definition of such a character, has never and will never be administered.)
With regard to the role of women, the Talmud is careful to reiterate the obligation upon every man to "love your wife as yourself and honor her more than yourself", "love your wife truly and faithfully and do not compel her to hard work", and notes "it is woman alone through whom God's blessings are vouchsafed to a house"... there are many more quotes like this, all from a document dating back to 450 CE! Gitai's seemingly discriminatory quotes have all been removed from their context. The first example of this is that Meir's blessings in the movie's opening scene have been rearranged to emphasize '...who has not made me a woman', which is a particularly cheap shot. The accusation that this particular blessing is indicative of discrimination has been around for ages, and it has been convincingly refuted for just as long. In traditional Judaism, women are believed to be on a higher spiritual plane than men, and so men have more obligations in order to raise them to that high level. The '...who has not made me a woman' blessing is made by men out of gratitude for their greater number of obligations. Women say '...who has made me according to His will'. Jews acknowledge that 'male and female G-d created them', both man and woman are part of a whole, and neither is intrinsically subject to the other. (...)
If Orthodox Judaism truly discriminated against women, there would be no growth in number of the women interested in increasing their Jewish observance. However, many women ARE becoming more religious; some communities are comprised entirely of the newly Orthodox.
Please reconsider accepting this movie as an accurate depiction of objective reality.
on August 31, 2003
As a secular Jew I admit to not knowing any ultra-orthodox here in the USA or in Israel. But I think the plot is more about gender roles and extreme, exclusionary beliefs, than the Jewish religion per se. The bleak dreariness of the the lives of the extremists in the film seem not so different than extremists of any religion who believe that they have the only path to the ear of their god. But is the fanatic husband any different then many men of any creed one hears on talk show, reads about, or might even meet? Men who believe they are the superior gender; that women are merely objects, &/or "baby incubators"? If this were not true, why did we need a women's movement in the first place. As a woman, I can tell you that my own father (not an orthodox or a zealot) believed the Only good reason to send a woman to college was to "marry a better class of man", another mythology. Many good men never go to college. I was expected to get my MRS, not my BA & MS. (Hopefully, it is not necessary to point out: not all men are chauvinists) Whether a barren woman must be divorced or not, it is the sister's devastating passiveness and loss of hope of any life that is tragic. The younger sister leaves the horrific conditions of her life with a look of hope, and perhaps, even, a bit of a smile.
on June 26, 2003
I read the previous comments and was surprised that all of them boiled down to discussion about Jewish orthodox way of life. The movie tells a story of two orthodox couples in Israel through the eyes of the director of the movie. I do not think and also hope that the director did not pretend to know the "whole truth nothing but the truth" and it was his attempt to depict what he views as an orthodox way of life. I am not an orthodox Jew but I saw Jews who would be like main personages of the movie, I also saw Jews orthodox Jews who would not be like that.
Any stereotyping is dangerous, multiplied by ignorance it could be deadly, so let's focus on cinematography and not on the director's vision of what ultra-orthodoxy is about. I am sure 99.9% of the movie viewers have no clue what would be a major difference between the people portrayed in the movie and other orthodox Jews living next door..
The movie is anti-religious and anti-orthodox, but is done well and actors are playing reasonably well, so I gave it 4 out of 5...
on November 17, 2002
It's an interesting phenomenon that if someone looks at a thing and wants to find a trait in it, if they look hard enough they will find what they are looking for regardless of whether or not that trait is there. Kadosh is an example of this.
Much of what is in this movie is completely made up, and the rest is taken completely out of context. It was made by a secular Jew, not someone familiar with the subject (or if he is at all familiar, he is very biased), and is about as representative of Orthodox society as the human characters in the movie Chicken Run are representative of humans.
I might add that I was born Jewish but that I became Orthodox by my own choice, and that I have never felt discriminated against as an orthodox woman.
If I were to show you a movie and tell you that it is a political propaganda film, you would take it with a grain of salt. If I were to show you a movie and tell you that it is a racially biased propaganda film, you would take it with a grain of salt. But people accept the movie Kadosh as fact, when it is really one of the saddest types of slander around - it is a Jewish director targeting other Jews. For some people this might add credence to his message. I don't find that it does so. I could make a film about my very helpful neighbor. We have a lot in common - we are women and we live on the same street. But if I chose I could make a movie portraying her as a real pain in the neck... and people would accept this just because they think the opinion of someone who has met her is objective. It isn't. The director may be Jewish, but he has a completely different background from the people he thinks he is portraying. He has probably been fed the same biased opinions regarding orthodox Jews as you have, by watching his movie. These are strong words, but I consider this movie pre-digested slander. Be discriminatory in your decision to believe it.
on June 18, 2002
I had mixed feelings about this film but I think it's important to explain that there is a difference between the Orthodox Judaism that is practiced here in America (and probably most other countries) and the Orthodox Judaism that is practiced in Israel. There, it is the most fundamental type of orthodoxy that one can find. It is not imposed that a man must divorce his wife if she cannot bear children, but the pressures are very real. In America, if an orthodox woman wasn't able to get pregnant, the family would not turn their back on the possibility that it might be the man who is sterile. In fact, most of the events we see in this film would not happen in our society. Nevertheless, the misogynist words that men say every morning in their prayers, the fact that women are considered 'unclean' and untouchable during menstruation and so on, is part of all orthodox Jewish belief. Ironically, many of the viewpoints of women in the orthodox Jewish religion are very similar to those of the beliefs in fundamentalist Islam (thankfully, orthodox Jews do not castrate women!). I think this film has valid viewpoints on fundamentalism. The film isn't anti-Semitic, it is humanistic. Orthodox women in Israel are terribly mistreated. They know that to leave their community means losing family and all that they've ever known. They are brainwashed like all people who are told not to question their religion, that they would be turning their back on God. Thus, they take their pain out on themselves instead of their community. Many people tend to look the other way when one brings up the misogyny present in Orthodox Judaism. Would they do so if the tables were turned and it was women who thanked God they were not born a man and considered their men unclean several days of the month and so on? If one race subjugated another the way women are subjugated in most fundamentalist religions, there would be a major outcry the world over, but most people tend to feel that subjugation of a woman is basically okay. In the name of 'religion', it is never questioned. No religion is bad, but any community that does not allow one to question the rules of a religion is very, very dangerous, be it Jewish, Muslim or Christian. I find it sad that people in the Jewish community can't accept any form of criticism about a branch of their religion that does exist in parts of the world. This is not a great film from an artistic viewpoint, but it is obviously an important eye opener for people who have a belief that Judaism, as well as all religions, should be balanced and humane. If you don't like what you see, criticize those people who even allow the philosophy that women are inferior beings into their religions. Those roots are there, everywhere! As long as they are not questioned, there will always be those who will use them literally.
on May 8, 2002
The DVD interviews are extremely revealing. The actors (themselves secular Israelis) love the challenge of playing fundamentalist ultra-Orthodox Jews and manage to convey a true pathos for the characters and their lives. Their attempt to find beauty and integrity in the characters, and their sympathetic portrayals, are admirable but paradoxical, because the script is stacked against this attempt. The writer/director makes clear in his dvd interview: Orthodox Judaism and the Talmud are, according to him, clearly out to debase women. He chooses the most anti-woman quotations from the Talmud (certainly using a search engine) and composes a plot and shallow fundamentalists to mouthe the lines. In the interview, he claims all monotheistic religions are by nature anti-woman [unlike the Greeks, Romans, Assyrians, Egyptians,... ???] and that fundamentalists are people too shallow "to experience spirituality in the world without ritual" as he does. He admits making the film as an attack on the religious right in Israel.
In sum, the actors' sensitive portrayals make the first half of the film truly interesting, but the second half is all contrived preachiness, ruining what could have been a balanced critique and portrayal of women in this culture.
on November 6, 2001
Kadosh was an international sensation for the simple reason that it's subject matter is controversial, with some exotic titillation thrown in for some added measure.
As a secular Jew who lived for a while among ultra orthodox Jews, I can assure you that nothing in this film even remotely resembles the Charedi way of life. The ultra orthodox have a well-developed network of outreach and referral services for barren couples. A conversation with any fertility expert will confirm this. I never heard of a single case in which a loving Charedi couple had to divorce by rabbinic decree for any medical reason. The passage in Talmud dealing with barrenness was written in the context of what was socially acceptable at that time, some 1500 years ago.
I was also amazed at how little the Israeli director of Kadosh, Amos Gitai, knows about the intricacies of daily Charedi life. It borders on complete ignorance. To find a much better appreciation of the ultra-orthodox worldview, read some of the books by these renowned secular writers, who grew up in an orthodox community, such as I.B. Singer or Chaim Grade.
on March 12, 2001
I recently saw this film at a local Jewish film festival and was roundly disabused of the notion that there is little mind bending - feature length cinema coming from Isreal today. This is one of the most gorgeously composed films I have seen for years and I am truely stunned. There is not much to tell about the plot. There are seven characters .... mostly trying to reconcile their love for their families and their love for the traditions of Chasidism as they understand them in the very insular world of Mea Shearim. Regardless of what the movie is about .... and even if you feel that Gitai is being a little heavy handed in his presentation of the Ultra-Orthodox, rarely outside of Bergman will you find narrative scenes so exquisitly developed with such a minimum of camera movement or unnecessary diaglogue. The power of a single shot developed by the actors/actresses themselves is treated as a true dramatic celebration by anyone who can either understand Hebrew or is not too terribly disconcerted by white subtitles against a predominantly white background and other careless DVD transfer oversights .... hence the loss of one star.
on December 29, 2000
In a beautifully constructed but ultimately depressing essay on the endless pain and suffering caused by blind allegiance to doctrine and tradition, Israeli director Amos Gitai turns a relentlessly critical eye on a stiflingly ultra-orthodox segment of the Jewish population in modern-day Jerusalem. No, Gitai holds no punches.
Two sisters, Rivka (Yael Abecassis) and Malka (Meital Barda) are trapped in this male-dominated society. Rivka has not been able to bear children for her husband Meir (Yoram Hattab) and, according to a direct quote from the Talmud itself, a barren woman is no better than a dead woman. Malka, meanwhile, can not marry the man she loves but must marry the ultra-orthodox Yossef (Uri Ran Klausner) who believes that the only role women play in today's world is that of producing more Jewish men.
In a brilliant stroke, director Gitai explores the ruinous ramifications of such a belief system by focusing almost solely on the impact it causes to the sexual lives of these two young subjugated women -- incredibly sweet and beautiful love scenes are juxtaposed with one of the most repugnant and mechanical sex scenes in recent memory, which drives home the sad point that the only purpose of marriage is to allow cold, painful intercourse which itself is necessary only for the propagation of the faction.