Kadosh

This startlingly angry film from Israeli director Amos Gitai opens with an ultra-Orthodox Jewish scholar thanking God he wasn't born a woman; by the final moments, it's obvious why. Among the ultra-Orthodox of Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood, the roles of men and women are inflexibly defined. In their heavy black clothes and sidecurls, the men study...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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This startlingly angry film from Israeli director Amos Gitai opens with an ultra-Orthodox Jewish scholar thanking God he wasn't born a woman; by the final moments, it's obvious why. Among the ultra-Orthodox of Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood, the roles of men and

women are inflexibly defined. In their heavy black clothes and sidecurls, the men study the Torah at the yeshiva while women like Rivka (Yael Abecassis) and her younger sister Malka (Meital Barda) are expected to keep house and, above all else, bear children. But after 10 years of marriage to Meir

(Yoram Hattab), Rivka still isn't pregnant, and Meir's father (Yussef Abu Warda), a rabbi, urges his son to renounce his seemingly barren wife. ("A man who dies without progeny rips a page from the Torah," he reminds Meir.) Malka, meanwhile, loves a young Israeli soldier (Sami Hori) but is forced

to marry a scholar (Uri Ran Klausner) so fanatical in his devotion that he agonizes over whether it's sinful to pour hot water over a tea bag on the Sabbath. Gitai sets the sisters' tragic plight against the centuries-old rituals that circumscribe their lives and render them passive, whether it's

a marriage ceremony, a ritual bath to cleanse their "impure" bodies or a night in the marriage bed. As unforgiving as the film is, Gitai is careful to show that the trouble lies not in the Torah, but in its interpretation. He also places the extraordinary pressure to bear children in the context

of a people who live completely apart from the rest of the world — even other Jews — and have been continually threatened by extinction. The acting is uniformly superb, as is the rich, somber cinematography by Renato Berta, who has shot films for such leaders of European cinema as

Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, Louis Malle and Manoel de Oliveira.

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: This startlingly angry film from Israeli director Amos Gitai opens with an ultra-Orthodox Jewish scholar thanking God he wasn't born a woman; by the final moments, it's obvious why. Among the ultra-Orthodox of Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood, the role… (more)

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