Friday March 17, 2000
Amos Gitai's somber, elegiac "Kadosh," which means "sacred" in Yiddish, takesus into the sequestered world of Mea Shearim, the Orthodox Jewish quarter of Jerusalem, where its devout citizens are committed to preserving an ancient way of life. It is a profoundly patriarchal society in which many of its men devote their lives to the study of the Talmud while the women run the households and raise the children.
Meir (Yoram Hattab) and Rivka (Yael Abecassis) are such a couple. After 10 years of marriage they share a deep and passionate love, but they have not been blessed with children. They are happy together but now Meir's father, the community's rabbi, declares that because their marriage has produced no offspring it is illegitimate. Rivka must leave and Meir must marry another woman.
Citing Abraham's fidelity to the barren Sarah and other biblical examples to his father, Meir attempts to preserve his marriage, but his father will not hear of it. Meir and Rivka are thrown into terrible conflict with their allegiance to their religion and to each other.
Although Gitai shot his interiors on sets, he filmed extensively in Mea Shearim, having gained the community's trust. That he treats the Orthodox way of life with the utmost reverence and respect actually makes his film all the more devastating. Simply by showing a couple yielding to authority the way they are supposed to becomes an implicit criticism of their plight, especially of the community's women, who may be cherished and revered by their men but who ultimately have no freedom and no defense when their spirits are being systematically crushed, as is the case with Rivka, who slides into silence in the seclusion of a rented room.
Ironically, her despair is doubtlessly made immeasurably deeper because of what would surely be construed as an act of defiance in her community: She discreetly consults a non-Orthodox female gynecologist who finds that she is in fact quite capable of bearing children. The doctor herself realizes that for Meir to submit to examination for a probable low sperm count or to consider artificial insemination or any other means of making child-bearing possible would be unthinkable. What, you have to wonder, will the rabbi say when the new wife proves to be no more capable of producing an heir than Rivka was?
Gitai has created a film that is as beautiful as it is all but unbearable to watch, for in a very real sense Rivka acquiesces, participates even, in her dire fate. Yet there is some respite in that the film is really the story of two sisters, with Rivka's devoted, caring younger sister Malka (Meital Barda) gathering the courage to resist an arranged marriage with a man she does not love and commit to the man (Sami Hori) who has left the community to pursue a career as a rock singer.
Clearly, Gitai is in awe of the Orthodox community in its stubborn survival in the face of the Holocaust and every sort of historical displacement and incursion from the modern world. Yet he leaves us feeling that the rigidity that thus far has helped the Orthodoxy to survive may ultimately prove to be its undoing.
Kadosh, 2000. Unrated. A Kino International release of a co-production of Agav Hafakot, M.P. Productions and Le Studio Canal Plus. Director Amos Gitai. Producer Laurent Truchot. Screenplay Gitai, Eliette Abecassis with Jacky Cukier. Cinematographer Renato Berta. Editors Monica Coleman, Kobi Netanel. Music James Legg. Production designer John Paino. Art director Jim Donahue. Set decorator Rona De Angelo. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes. Dolores Heredia as Esperanza. Fernando Torre Lapham as Padre Salvador. Demian Bichir as Cacomixtle. Alberto Estrella as Angel. Eric Schaeffer as Wirey Spindell. Eric Mabius as Wirey at 17. Callie Thorne as Tabatha. Samantha Buck as Samantha. Sophia-Adella Hernandez as Belle Alvarado. Eduardo Yan~ez as Mario Rodriguez. Tony Plana as Chuck Alvarado. William McNamara as Michael DeMarco. Maria Conchita Alonso as Carmen Alvarado. Paul Winfield as Ron Regent. Liam Neeson as Charlie. Oliver Platt as Fulvio Nesstra. Jose Zuniga as Fidel Vaillar. Michael Delorenzo as Estuvio. Andy Lauer as Jason Cane. Richard Schiff as Elliott. Paul Ben-Victor as Howard. Gregg Daniel as Jonathan. Ben Weber as Mark. Sandra Bullock as Judy Tipp. Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott. Courteney Cox Arquette as Gale Weathers. David Arquette as Dewey Riley. Parker Posey as Jennifer Jolie. Bernadette Lafont as Jane. Lucile Saint-Simon as Rita. Clothilde Joano as Jacqueline. Stephane Audran as Ginette. Mark Webber as Hal Brandston. Zena Grey as Natalie Brandston. Chevy Chase as Tom Brandston. Schuyler Fisk as Lane Leonard. Emmanuelle Chriqui as Claire Bonner. Jean Smart as Laura Brandston. Chris Elliott as Snowplowman. Leonardo DiCaprio as Richard. Tilda Swinton as Sal. Virginie Ledoyen as Francoise. Guillaume Canet as Etienne. Robert Carlyle as Daffy. Vin Diesel as Riddick. Radha Mitchell as Fry. Cole Hauser as Johns. Keith David as Imam. Giovanni Ribisi as Seth. Vin Diesel as Chris. Nia Long as Abby. Nicky Katt as Greg. Scott Caan as Richie. Ron Rifkin as Seth's Father. Ben Affleck as Jim Young. Wei Minzhi as Wei Minzhi. Zhang Huike as Zhang Huike. Tian Zhenda as Mayor Tian. Gao Enman as Teacher Gao. Meg Ryan as Eve. Diane Keaton as Georgia. Lisa Kudrow as Maddy. Walther Matthau as Lou. Bruce Willis as Jimmy Tudeski. Matthew Perry as Oz Oseransky. Rosanna Arquette as Sophie. Michael Clarke Duncan as Frankie Figgs. Natasha Henstridge as Cynthia. Amanda Peet as Jill. Michael Douglas as Grady Tripp. Tobey Maguire as James Leer. Frances McDormand as Sara Gaskell. Katie Holmes as Hannah Green. Rip Torn as Q. Robert Downey Jr. as Terry Crabtree. Aaron Harnick as David Gold. Edie Falco as Judy Berlin. Madeline Kahn as Alice Gold. Bob Dishy as Arthur Gold. Barbara Barrie as Sue Berlin. Bette Henritze as Dolores Engler. Ayesha Dharkar as Malli. Vishnu Vardhan as Thyagu. Bhanu Prakash as Perumal. K. Krishna as Lover. Sonu Sisupal as Leader. Vishwas as Lotus. Michael Rooker as Fritz Burns. Selma Blair as Jane. Valerie Perrine as Marguerita Hansen. Harold Gould as Solly K. William Sasso as Fat Dog. A Cinema Village Features release. Running time as 1 hour, 22 minutes.. Ian Hart as Kieran. Pat Short as Ollie. Cathleen Bradley as Siobhan. Niamh Cusack as Kate. Sean McGinley as Ian. Ben Affleck as Rudy. Gary Sinise as Gabriel. Charlize Theron as Ashley. Dennis Farina as Jack Bangs. James Frain as Nick. Clarence Williams III as Merlin. Aaron Harnick as David Gold. Edie Falco as Judy Berlin. Madeline Kahn as Alice Gold. Bob Dishy as Arthur Gold. Barbara Barrie as Sue Berlin. Bette Henritze as Dolores Engler. Ayesha Dharkar as Malli. Vishnu Vardhan as Thyagu. Bhanu Prakash as Perumal. K. Krishna as Lover. Sonu Sisupal as Leader. Vishwas as Lotus. Michael Rooker as Fritz Burns. Selma Blair as Jane. Valerie Perrine as Marguerita Hansen. Harold Gould as Solly K. William Sasso as Fat Dog. A Cinema Village Features release. Running time as 1 hour, 22 minutes.. Ian Hart as Kieran. Pat Short as Ollie. Cathleen Bradley as Siobhan. Niamh Cusack as Kate. Sean McGinley as Ian. Ben Affleck as Rudy. Gary Sinise as Gabriel. Charlize Theron as Ashley. Dennis Farina as Jack Bangs. James Frain as Nick. Clarence Williams III as Merlin. Carlotte Coleman as Portia Thornton. Edin Dzandzanovic as Pero Guzina. Danny Nussbaum as Griffin Midge. Gilbert Martin as Jerry Higgins. Nicholas Farrell as Dr. Mouldy. Brian Hooks as Rob. N'Bushe Wright as Juanita. Faizon Love as Tone. E40 as Mike. Starletta DuPois as Moms. George Wallace as Pops. David Alan Grier as Jenkins. Anders W. Berthelsen as Kresten. Iben Hjejle as Liva. Jesper Asholt as Rud. Emil Tarding as Bjarke. Madonna as Abbie. Rupert Everett as Robert. Benjamin Bratt as Ben. Michael Vartan as Kevin. Josef Sommer as Richard Whittaker. Lynn Redgrave as Helen Whittaker. Garry Shandling as Harold Anderson. Annette Bening as Susan. John Goodman as Roland Jones. Greg Kinnear as Perry Gordon. Ben Kingsley as Graydon. Danny DeVito as Wyatt Rash. Bette Midler as Mona Dearly. William Fichtner as Phil. Casey Affleck as Bobby. Neve Campbell as Ellen. Jamie Lee Curtis as Rona. Johnny Depp as Dean Corso. Frank Langella as Boris Balkan. Lena Olin as Liana Telfer. Emmanuelle Seigner as The Girl. Barbara Jefford as Baroness Kessler. Jack Taylor as Victor Fargas. Kevin Pollak as President Walter Emerson. Timothy Hutton as Marshall Thompson. Sheryl Lee Ralph as Gayle Redford. Sean Astin as Ralph. Tim Robbins as Woody Blake. Gary Sinise as Jim McConnell. Don Cheadl as : Luke Graham. Connie Nielsen as Terri Fisher. Yael Abecassis as Rivka. Yoram Hattab as Meir. Meital Barda as Malka. Sami Hori as Yaakov.