You know what seems horrible? Getting divorced! You know what seems extra horrible? Getting divorced in Israel!
In Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, Viviane, an Israeli woman, unhappily married since she was a teenager, finally decides to put her terrible marriage out of its misery. Good move, Viviane! Only, thanks to arcane religious laws, Viviane can't just file for divorce; instead, she must stand trial before a council of orthodox rabbis who will decide if divorce is right for her. They're joined by Viviane's detestable, glowering husband (Simon Abkarian), who has the power to reject her request for a divorce at any time—and does, repeatedly, for years. YEARS!
Meanwhile, Viviane stands by, mostly silent, as this group of strange men discuss the particulars of her marriage, and generally relish in, you know, treating her like property. Not surprisingly, this is an infuriating thing to watch, and that's absolutely the point. Written and directed by Shlomi and Ronit Elkabetz (who also stars as Viviane), Gett's political agenda is clear: begin a discussion about changing the laws that trap real-life Israeli women in dead marriages—about 3,400 women every year, according to a 2013 estimate given by Israeli women's rights groups to the Los Angeles Times.
If the fury Gett incites isn't surprising, then the interest it elicits is. Let me remind you: This story takes place strictly in bland courtrooms with unflattering lighting, and Viviane herself doesn't really talk much. Still, somehow, it becomes a completely hypnotic viewing experience. The final scene will stay with you, even if you don't want it to. Gett is an excellent argument for secular rule. Luckily, it's an even better movie.
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
Directors Ronit Elkabetz, Shlomi Elkabetz
Tin Pan Theater