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Flash Movie Review: Menashe

“THAT IS THE way it has always been done,” is a response that I have had a love/hate relationship with for a majority of my life. On one hand I am of the mindset “if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.” In other words if things are working fine then do not make any changes. Having lived this way for a long period of time, I am challenged when it comes to making changes. Since I am not a spontaneous type of person, you can imagine how stressful it is for me when my routine is altered. But on the other hand, there have been times in my adult life where I survived a change and found out it made an improvement. One example would be changing from using multiple charge cards for making various purchases to only using one card; I saved time by only having to pay one bill a month instead of several. So I am aware some change is good.     AN AREA WHERE change comes slowly is religion. Not that I am an expert by any means but I have seen where some traditions have been updated. I am referring to both the religion I was born into along with other ones I have been exposed to via friends and family. There are some traditions that I admit seem odd to me. Maybe in a different time they made sense but to my sensibilities they appear to have little relevance to the current world. I remember a time where only males led a service; the first time I saw a female do it, I recall how some in the congregation were, shall we say, uncomfortable. Personally I did not think it was a big deal since I always felt everyone had the right to communicate to a higher power the way they saw fit. I do not believe one person has an inside track to their God’s ear. It can be a struggle for some people; it was obvious in this dramatic film festival winning movie.     LIVING IN AN ultra-orthodox community in Brooklyn widower Menashe, played by newcomer Menashe Lustig, was being told he could not raise his son Fischel, played by Yoel Falkowitz (The Hudson Tribes), without a mother. Menashe wanted to prove them wrong. With newcomers Ruben Niborski, Meyer Schwartz and Yael Weisshaus, this picture at times seemed more like a documentary than a fictional story. The emotions portrayed by the cast came across as real, with several touching scenes throughout the movie. Some viewers may be totally unfamiliar with what is being portrayed on screen; I do not think it will have an impact on following the story. Speaking of the story, I found this one interesting as it touched on religious beliefs, parenting, family and childrearing. I could see it easily becoming a topic of conversation for viewers afterward. My issue with the script was the lack of dramatic variance. It felt like the scenes remained in a certain pocket of intensity. At one point I was losing interest because it seemed as if the same scenario was repeating itself. Because I enjoy getting exposed to different religious traditions, I still had a curiosity about the unfolding story. Yiddish was spoken with English subtitles.

 

2 ¾ stars

 

 

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Flash Movie Review: Fill the Void

Where yesterday’s movie review talked about the internal struggle between the heart and the mind, today’s movie made me think about the external forces one could face regarding love. I find it perplexing when I hear people say, “He comes from a good family” or “You cannot marry someone outside your faith.”  What do these things mean? To me being able to say, “I love you,” is one of the most profound statements a human being can say. It supersedes what anyone else has to say on the subject. Looking at relationships historically, marriages were arranged for various reasons. In some cases families were joined for political reasons, while others were done simply to combine farmlands. In this quiet drama the attempt to join two people in marriage was done, in my opinion, for selfish reasons. Yiftach Klein (Policeman, Noodle) played Yochay, the brother-in-law of Shira, played by Hadas Yaron (Out of Sight). When Yochay’s wife (Shira’s sister) died during childbirth; Shira’s mother Rivka, played by Irit Sheleg (Night Terrors, Abba Ganuv III), suggested Shira marry her brother-in-law and become a mother for the new born baby. On one level the story made me uncomfortable; however, when I viewed the movie as a glimpse into a family’s struggle between old world traditions and modern independent thinking, I was able to see it as a historical study. This film festival winner provided a peek into an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community in Tel Aviv Israel. The acting was well done by Hadas and Yiftach, as they used their bodies to convey the enormous pressures being placed on them. However, there was a negative side in focusing on the physical. I wished there had been more verbal interactions between the characters because I found myself getting bored. Gratefully the filming had a stark, sharp look to it. The way Shira’s pale whiteness contrasted with the darkly clothed men around her was interesting to watch. It may be due to my feelings about love being a personal thing, but I found this film to be somewhat sad. It is already hard enough when the heart and mind wrestle over the direction of love; but then adding outside influences creates a bigger challenge. Hebrew with English subtitles.

 

2 1/2 stars

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