RATING |

"GETT: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem" opens on a horrific divorce proceeding in which advocates argue the merits of the wife's desire to end the marriage.

She's in court, but is the only character not visible in this scene, which is the very point of the movie, hammered home over the next two hours.

"Gett" is an Israeli movie (subtitled), intended to show the difficulties women encounter seeking a divorce in a rabbinical court, depicted here as a deeply patriarchal institution.

Men essentially get what they want, and the husband (Simon Abkarian) in this case refuses to grant a divorce, though he has not lived with wife, Viviane (Ronit Elkabetz), for several years, has not been intimate with her for far longer and admits that they fought constantly and bitterly under the same roof.

All this emerges in testimony that paints a dire picture of the marriage (witnesses are called) in excruciating detail, in a visual style (one camera, one shabby room) that's meant to make us feel as captive to the process as she.

Mission accomplished. Not since "The War of the Roses" has a movie so successfully captured a couple's desire to destroy each other.

This version, though, not so funny. "Gett" covers five years in a protracted proceeding, popping in every few months to confirm Viviane's unstinting defiance and resolve, matched in every measure by the husband.

He sometimes refuses to appear, and when he does, makes the claim that his actions derive from love. Viviane has a more convincing take: His actions are spiteful, and reveal something closer to hate.

Viviane's point of view carries the day, and why not - she's presented so forcefully by Elkabetz, one of Israel's leading actresses, here directing herself in a script she helped write.

Ruling after ruling favors the husband, and when the exasperated Viviane cries out to be "seen," the words have a double meaning.

So, too, does the resolution, in which a woman's search for "freedom" comes down to a choice between various forms of male control.

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