Orthodox World Provides Backdrop for Rama Burshtein's Universal Story

'Fill The Void' Offers Rare Glimpse Inside Hasidic Life

sony pictures classic

By Ezra Glinter

Published May 21, 2013, issue of May 31, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 4)

“I fell in love with the script,” Amir told me over the phone from Tel Aviv. “After I read the first draft, I told Rama that the film could have been shot in Poland 200 years ago, in New York, in Tel Aviv. It was that kind of film we were making.”

At the beginning of “Fill the Void,” we see Shira with her mother, Rivka (Irit Sheleg), nervously scouting a potential match in the dairy aisle of the supermarket. “You’ll have to do a lot of laundry,” her mother remarks skeptically, as the man wipes his glasses on his shirt. Shira, however, is impressed. A smile plays on her lips as she admires her potential suitor.

But events soon take a tragic turn. Shira’s sister, Esther (Renana Raz), dies during childbirth, leaving behind her husband, Yochai (Yiftach Klein), and a newborn son, Mordechai. When Yochai receives a marriage proposal from a family in Belgium, Rivka conspires to have him marry Shira instead, so as not to lose her only grandson. The idea might seem outrageous — and does seem outrageous, at first, to both Shira and Yochai — but the emphasis of the story, and of Yaron’s performance, is on Shira’s struggle with feelings of duty, desire and love.

“It wasn’t about being a religious girl,” Yaron said, explaining her approach to the character. “It’s about going through a process of growth, and growing up, and falling in love. It’s complicated, but it’s about emotions and choices that had to be made.”

Although female characters like Shira and Rivka are at the center of Burshtein’s story, “Fill the Void” presents a unique picture of a Hasidic family in other respects.

The film achieves a rare verisimilitude of speech and dress, bringing the viewer into what feels like a real Hasidic home, not a filmmaker’s facsimile of one. This extends even to the soundtrack, which, when we don’t hear male characters singing around the Sabbath table, or Shira playing the accordion, consists of contemporary Orthodox pop music.

More important, unlike most movies depicting the ultra-Orthodox, “Fill the Void” is not about a conflict between religious and secular societies, a crisis of faith or a struggle with forbidden desires, like homosexuality.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.