Fill the Void swept the Israeli Academy Awards, including four of the top awards. This is not entirely significant for international audiences unfamiliar with the year in Israeli cinema, but it does give weight to the appealing aspects of the film for foreign distribution. This is the type of film which is a revealing look at marital cultural traditions in Israeli, not unlike Ang Lee’s debut, The Wedding Song, did for Chinese culture.
Though it is these unique traditions and specific methods of matchmaking which makes Fill the Void a marketable film, the human element at the center of the story carries the film further than simple cultural exploration. Carrying the emotional load of the film is Hadas Yaron, who stars as Shira, an eighteen-year-old put in an impossible situation. Yaron won Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival, as well as the Israeli Academy Awards, and it is her ability to capture the audience’s sympathy which has drawn comparisons to the work of Jane Austen.
Shira is the youngest girl in her family and has just turned eighteen, which opens up a world of possibilities for marriage. There are young men that are prospects for her, but this becomes somewhat insignificant when Shira’s older sister, Esther (Renana Raz), dies during childbirth. Esther leaves behind a child and husband, Yochay (Yiftach Klein), who must consider marrying a widow from
in order to take care of his child. Belgium
The option to have Shira marry Yochay in order to keep Esther’s child close to the family is one which plays out slowly through the course of the film. It is not a decision taken lightly, and we watch Shira come to full terms with the sacrifice she will be making by considering this option. American audiences may struggle somewhat with the politics and patriarchal control driving the marital plans within the culture, but it is helped a great deal by making Shira the ultimate deciding factor in the final outcome.
The DVD includes a commentary track with Hadas Yaron and writer/director Rama Burshtein, who also has a Q&A featurette.
Entertainment Value: 6.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8/10
Historical Significance: 8/10
Disc Features: 7/10