Examining relationship of ancient faith to modern world

May 12, 2000|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

A beautiful, meditative contemplation of orthodox Judaism and its compatibility with modern sexual roles, "Kadosh" is a wonderfully understated work offering insights to a world where no emotion is simple.

The film opens in a single take, watching unobtrusively as Meir (Yoram Hattab), a Talmudic scholar living in Jerusalem's orthodox Jewish community of Mea Shearim, awakens in the morning and performs the time-honored ritual that accompanies dressing for the day.

It's a lovely scene, as Meir carefully puts on the vestments and says the prayers dictated by Jewish law.

All seems peaceful and reverent, until he pauses to say good-bye to his wife. The two exchange no harsh words, but it's clear something is troubling their relationship.

We learn that Meir's wife, Rivka (a heartbreaking Yal Abecassis), has been unable to conceive during their 10 years of marriage.

Meir and Rivka remain deeply in love, but in Mea Shearim, that's not enough. Women exist to bear children, and a marriage that fails to produce offspring is illegitimate.

Meir's father, the community's rabbi, is determined to see the marriage annulled and his son wedded to another, younger woman. Love, he says, is not an issue -- a reality both Meir and Rivka reluctantly accept.

While all this is happening, Rivka's sister, Malka (Meital Barda), is having her own problems. She's in love with a rock singer who has deserted the community, but the rabbi demands that she marry his colorless but faithful assistant Yossef (Uri Ran Klausner).

The movie watches reverently as both relationships play themselves out, in ways often unexpected.

Director Amos Gitai proves sympathetic to both sides in this tug-of-war between faith and feeling -- a frustrating stance to those looking for easy answers, but a clear-headed philosophy to those who realize that, in matters of head vs. heart, there's often no such thing as a winner.

`Kadosh

Starring Yal Abecassis, Yoram Hattab and Meital Barda

Directed by Amos Gitai

Released by Kino International Unrated (adult themes)

Running time 110 minutes

Sun score * * *

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