Ronit Elkabetz’s film is unsettling and funny.
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem is the third part of a trilogy about Viviane (Ronit Elkabetz) and Elisha (Simon Abkarian), a now-estranged Israeli couple. It’s not necessary to have seen the first two films in order to appreciate this tense, finely calibrated courtroom drama. What you do need to know about Gett, which was written and directed by Elkabetz and her brother, Shlomi Elkabetz, is the fact of Israeli marriage law on which it hinges: Only husbands can request a divorce.
Like a play or a 1950s anthology television drama, Gett unfolds on one set, with a small cast. The film plays out over five agonizing years, as Viviane and her lawyer (Menashe Noy) try to convince a trio of skeptical rabbi-jurists (Rami Danon, Roberto Pollak, Eli Gornstein) to grant her a divorce, despite Elisha’s impassive refusal. A series of witnesses deliver testimony in scenes that are alternately unsettling and grimly funny. Abkarian’s passivity and self-assurance are ominous, and Ronit Elkametz is remarkable as Viviane — dignified in the face of mounting absurdity, and finally despairing.