The new foreign film "Fill the Void" digs into the complex values of contemporary Jewish orthodox society in Israel. It is set amidst cell phones and arranged marriages. And, although the community dominates, individuals still have autonomy. The 18-year-old girl Shira gets to choose her husband with her heart, not what's best for the group.
THE NEW YORK TIMES praises director Rama Burstein for being able to capture how human beings navigate a rigid social order. The plot line follows Shira from being excited for a possible arranged marriage with a young catch to wrestling with whether to marry her dead sister's husband Jochay.
After her sister dies in child birth, Shira's family is thrown into emotional crisis. Unmoored, the members don't know what they should do. On the one hand the mother pushes Shira to marry Yochay to keep the infant in Israel. He might leave to marry someone in Belgium, taking the son with him. On the other hand, she wants Shira to be happy.
Everyone, including Yochay, is suffering. And it is through witnessing each other's emotional torment that Shira and Yochay are able to connect. The two individuals decide to marry. What might be surprising to some in the audience, it's the rabbi who initially discourages the marriage. He wants Shira to make her choices based on her feelings. And rather than being an arrogant despot, the rabbi is a regular guy who stops his schedule to teach an old woman what's important in buying an oven.
The most useful lesson from "Fill the Void" is how the benefits of belonging trump raw individualism.