Midway through the Israeli drama “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,” which was written and directed by Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz, Viviane’s lawyer, who represents the main character and Israeli woman trying to obtain a divorce from her husband, responds to the judge’s personal accusations by stating he is not the one on trial. The judge retaliates with the line, “Everyone is on trial here.” In a film that turns a skeptical eye to the Israeli judicial system, this statement acts as a distillation of the filmmakers’ larger claims: everyone is on trial because everyone is a part of an outdated process.
Under Israeli law only a Rabbi can dissolve a marriage and the husband must give full consent to the divorce.”‘Gett’ deals with the story of Viviane Amsalem, a woman who attempts to get a divorce from her intransigent husband Elisha despite his refusal. Ronit Elkabetz plays Viviane and Simon Abkarian plays her husband.” The film follows her three-years-long process trying to negotiate and circumvent a structure that will not allow her the freedom she desires. Neighbors are brought forward to try to prove that she is a part of an unhappy marriage, and family members are asked if Elisha is a good husband — all in an attempt to find grounds for the divorce in the eyes of the Rabbi. The story shares a common thread with the 2011 Iranian film “A Separation” in its exploration of law and gender roles in a religious society. While it mirrors that film in its thematic elements, “Gett” differentiates itself with its simple structure: one location and few characters.
A deft mix of humor and tragedy combined with beautifully written dialogue in tension-filled scenes makes for a very entertaining and emotional watch. There are no ridiculous left turns, making the story straightforward. The audience sympathizes strongly with Viviane even though she is given very little opportunity to talk, which is done purposely to showcase the lack of voice the women are given. Elkabetz’s facial expressions add to the emotional resonance, and when she is finally given the chance to speak, she does not disappoint.
In addition to fulfilling its role as an engaging courtroom drama, “Gett” also exposes incredibly important issues. It is said continually throughout the film that the couple is simply incompatible, and their banter during the long trial proves that. The filmmakers succeed in drawing attention to a flawed system through a consistently enthralling and layered story.
Email Zach Martin at [email protected].