Published Jun 20, 2013During every claustrophobic, static close-up in Fill the Void, most of which are shot within confined interiors, there's a sense of imprisonment and an imposing, anxiety-inducing lack of privacy. Behind every corner and in every background is another member of the Israeli Hassidic community, lingering, listening and watching the events in 18-year-old Shira's (Hadas Yaron) life unfold.
She, much like all of the women in her family and community, has limited options, being of an age when marriage is expected and motherhood is her sole opportunity for the future. Initially, she's pleased by the proposed marriage between her and an attractive, age-appropriate Yeshiva student. She's never spoken to him and shows no signs of having considered what might be important to her beyond the minor autonomy that marriage might bring. But, amidst the options, and in relation to her lonely, armless, spinster aunt, who wears a mitpachat to avoid uncomfortable questions, it seems like the most promising option.
In the midst of this process, her sister dies during childbirth, leaving her husband, Yohay (Yiftach Klein), a single dad. The most obvious solution to keep the baby close to the family — Yohay's remarriage option is off in Belgium — is to have Shira take her sister's place with a much older man and a baby that isn't hers. When she initially refuses, the community shifts into subdued crisis mode, entering a series of negotiations and discussions, each inserting themselves into Shira's decision, either by trying to convince her to change their mind or, in the case of a girl bordering on being too old to marry (she's nearly 30), trying to woo the contextually important man for herself.
None of this unfolds in a histrionic fashion. Instead, quiet conversations and behind-the-scenes manipulations gradually manoeuvre Shira into a position that satisfies the needs of the many. First-time director Rama Burshstein smartly avoids on-screen representation of the litany of emotions darting around just beneath the surface, choosing to keep the camera close to her protagonist, who manages to keep herself in check for the many eyes peering from every corner of each enclosure she's forced into.
It never quite reaches the palpable emotional breaking point the climactic moment, which is featured on the poster art, intends, but there's a sharp understanding of the filmmaking eye as a mode of telling a story that's never outwardly verbalized through exposition. As such, this quietly tense work demonstrates a masterful sense of restraint uncommon for a nascent filmmaker. (Mongrel Media)