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Kino on Video presents
Kadosh (1999)

"You know our laws. You know the only task of a daughter of Israel is to bring children into the world. To give birth to Jews, and enable her husband to study. God created man to study the Torah. Woman plays an indirect part in fulfilling the Torah by keeping his home clean, preparing his meals, and especially, by raising his children. A woman's only joy is raising his children."
- The Rabbi

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: November 19, 2000

Stars: Yaë Abecassis, Yoram Hattab, Meital Barda
Other Stars: Sami Hori, Uri Ran-Klausner, Yussuf Abu-Warda, Amos Gitai
Director: Amos Gitai

Manufacturer: CMCA
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (Adult situations, frank dialogue)
Run Time: 01h:56m:06s
Release Date: November 28, 2000
UPC: 738329019327
Genre: foreign


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B+A-B+ B-

DVD Review

For those of us to whom religion holds a less important part in our lives, the world of any strictly religious community is a foreign one. The rituals and rules are pretty much incomprehensible, and the degradation of females in many of the belief systems certainly runs counter to the accepted, if not practiced, attitudes of Western culture. Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai examines the conflict between the world of the ultra Orthodox and secular Jews in his 1999 film Kadosh, which translates as "sacred". The film garnered much acclaim through showings at international festivals, and earned Gitai praise for his look at a world rarely portrayed inside the strict Jewish faith.

Set in the Mea Shearim quarter of Jerusalem, Kadosh tells the tale of two sisters, each of whom faces a crisis caused by their rigid, patriarchal religious system. For Orthodox Jews, there is a strict distinction between male and female roles. Men are expected to spend their days in prayer, studying the Torah, and fathering the sons of Israel. A woman's place is to serve her husband, bear and raise his offspring, and work to support him to allow him time for his study. Rivka (Yaë Abecassis) has been married to Meïr (Yoram Hattab) for ten years, but has yet to bear him children. The son of a Rabbi, Meïr believes he is being cursed by his wife's infertility for living an unclean lifestyle due to their enjoyment of physical pleasure, despite his fervent and ritualistic prayer. Although she has devoted herself to Meïr for a decade, under Jewish law, a man may repudiate his wife if she has not borne him a son after that time. Rivka is presumed barren and is rejected by the community, and Meïr is ordered to take a new wife to fulfill his role in the continuation of the Jewish people.

Her sister Malka faces a different dilemma. For years, she has been in love with Yaakov (Sami Hori), a man who left the Orthodox life to join the army, and now lives as a secular Jew, performing as a musician in nightclubs. His presence is ignored and disapproved of by the community, and she has been chosen to marry another Orthodox Jew without her consent. Malka knows her role in society, but can't come to terms with losing her true love, and she battles her devotion to her faith with the future her unloving marriage will hold for her. Both women find themselves at odds with their faith, and ultimately, they must decide whether to maintain their traditional position in the community or face the consequences of following their hearts and individual interests.

As someone unfamiliar with the practices of the Orthodox Judaism, many of the revelations in this film were enlightening, such as the rituals of prayer that accompany almost any endeavor, perhaps most shocking was a scene where Malka's new husband prays for endurance and help with his performance prior to taking her virginity. The opening scene, a single shot lasting the better part of eight minutes, immediately places the viewer in a different world, following the repetitive prayer that permeates even a simple activity such as dressing, a prayer in which Meïr thanks God for not creating him as a woman. The strictly male-centric attitude may also be aggravating for anyone supporting sexual equality, since the film clearly delineates a woman's role as subservient to her husband and the community, and even the menstrual cycle has strict rules applied to it. Interlaced and contrasting with the rigid male lifestyle and attitudes, are moments of self-exploration by the female cast, both psychological and physical. There are brief moments of sensuality, which in context are viewed from polar viewpoints by the participants. The unveiling of all facets of the faith are done in an nonjudgemental fashion, which makes their impact even more powerful.

While Kadosh portrays the Orthodox Jewish faith, its message resonates throughout the rest of the world's fundamentalist religions as well. One scene in particular sets the tone for the attitude towards the outside world, where, while driving through town calling on all Jews to gather and reunite their forces, the messenger calls on their God to vengefully strike down their enemies, while delivering the Jews to their salvation. This certainly flies in the face of any hope towards world peace and interdenominational harmony; but is important to understand, due to the political influence these groups hold in many countries. Depending on your viewpoint, the film will come off as either a harsh criticism of religion and a somewhat derogatory swipe at feminism, or an empowering tribute to the feminist will and a warning of the extremism found in fundamentalist religions. Regardless, the film's message encompasses more than just the focus on one faith, and will be an eye-opener for less devout audiences, though the ending left me somewhat unsatisfied.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The film is presented in nonanamorphic widescreen at its theatrical 1.85:1 ratio. While free of any major print defects, the film is somewhat dark at times, and the hues tend towards yellowish in some scenes, though this may be intentional. There is some shimmer evident on occasion, and the transfer racks fairly frequently. Edge enhancement is not a factor, and film grain, while evident, is not distracting. There are some compression issues, especially while panning, and the burned-in white subtitles are hard to read at times with no outline to distinguish them. Widescreen owners will be happy these are placed within the 1.85:1 image. Black levels and color saturation are fine, but for a film this recent the presentation is certainly passable, but not overly inspiring.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Hebrewno


Audio Transfer Review: Kadosh is presented in stereo, and the soundtrack is generally well rendered, although there are a few dropouts present. Hebrew is the only language selection, and dialogue is clear, as is the accompanying Middle Eastern score.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The disc features a 24-minute making-of which contains interview footage of the three main characters and the director discussing various aspects of the film, and the audience reaction at Cannes which included a 20-minute standing ovation. It also contains some unused footage which I felt explained more about the characters' relationships, particularly Meïr's attitude towards sex and his wife, and his guilt thereof. There is also some interesting commentary on the status of women in religious society and on the state of Israel expressed by the director. This is actually a very decent addition to the feature. A theatrical trailer is also included, which uses more readable subtitles than the feature. The insert contains excerpts from an interview with Gitai, done at the time of the Cannes premiere.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Guaranteed to get a reaction, this inner look at the Orthodox Jewish community encompasses more than just the film's subject community. The exposition of ritual ceremony and religious fanaticism are set against the demeaning role of women in the same society. Frank discussions of the women's menstrual rituals, a scene of marital rape, and the constant reinforcement of a male-dominated world could prove rightfully unsettling and would not be suitable for children. The film's message is undermined by a somewhat surrealistic ending, though the remainder of the picture is certainly food for thought, especially considering the world's continuing conflicts between self-righteous religious factions.

 


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