Fill the Void
By Nancy Usselmann With on February 10, 2013

(90 min - Hebrew w/ English subtitles) Fill the Void was one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. It was shown as a spotlight film at Sundance under the category of World Drama. Shot almost entirely in close-ups, I felt I was a member of this Orthodox Jewish family in Tel-Aviv experiencing their dramas and feeling their emotions. The audience is transported to a community of deep-seated tradition with strict social codes that direct the way men and women interact with each other. Directed by Rama Burshtein, this is a story about an 18-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl, Shira, who lives a sheltered life and is expected to marry the person her parents choose for her. Shira’s older sister is married and about to have a child. When tragedy strikes, Shira's mother wants her younger daughter to marry her deceased daughter's husband so her newborn grandchild can remain in the family. When she made this suggestion known to her son-in-law, since there was talk that he would marry another woman who lives in Belgium, he thought it absurd and refuses. Shira's previously arranged marriage proposal disintegrates and after some consideration her brother-in-law offers to take her as his wife. Shira feels trapped. She wants to do what people expect of her, but cannot help desiring a marriage that is born out of affection and love rather than necessity. She accepts, pleasantly but with complete indifference. When they go before the Rabbi to make their intention known, he looks intently at Shira and asks what her feelings are about the matter. The scene changes before we know what she actually replies, but we next see her crying and her brother-in-law fuming in anger. After several on-again off-again marriage arrangements with her former brother-in-law, she begins to dig deeper into her own feelings and discover what will give herself and others the greatest joy and peace. This film is about relationships and family traditions, but it is also about the struggle one experiences in choosing a path in life. It addresses the need to weigh family expectations with one’s happiness and contentment. There is a longing for oneness, for completion, for human connection and love. We cannot live without it. We all desire it. We all long for it. This is the longing that only God can ultimately fulfill. That is the desire for the supernatural, for intimacy, for wholeness and meaning. God is directing our lives and works with the choices we make. But, in our interior discernment, the choices that give us the most peace are the choices that are not solely about satisfying ourselves but are about giving of ourselves in love.

About the Author: Nancy Usselmann
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