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An interesting film ruined by oversimplification
alexis-520 February 2002
My big problem with this film is its view of the haredim (`ultra Orthodox' as they're sometimes called in English). Amos Gitai was called anti-religious for this movie. I don't know if he is or not. I DO know, as a modern observant Jew, that this film does not nearly portray the complexities of women's lives in haredi society. It simply chooses to portray them as victims. There have been cases of spousal abuse, marital rape, et cetera, in the haredi community, but it is not the norm. What happened with the divorce is extraordinarily unlikely in real life, yet he made it seem realistic. It's very easy to paint a picture of a society as an oppressive patriarchy if you only draw it as a caricature, and that's what Gitai did.

As a result, the good parts of the film, such as the performances, are almost meaningless, because the film's vision is so distorted and one-dimensional. This would have been a far more interesting film if it had portrayed haredi women's difficulties (which, like in any conservative society, are real) in a more complex way. There are many fascinating stories to be told about the haredi community, which combines rigid rules with an incredibly rich family and spiritual life. Kadosh shows you the pain haredi women experience, but never the joy.

Please, if you have no experience or familiarity with haredi or even Orthodox Judaism in general, take this film with a grain of salt. It's far from all there is.
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What is "sacred"?
DeeNine-24 October 2004
There are some thoughtful and well-written reviews both at Amazon and the IMDb and elsewhere in which it is claimed that the type of Jewish Orthodoxy presented here is not accurate. There are quibbles about the unnatural way that Meir puts on his garments. There is criticism of the selection of prayers recited, especially Meir giving thanks that he was not born a woman.

Moreover, there is the assertion that orthodox Judaism does NOT require that a man repudiate his wife after ten years of marriage even though she may be barren. Furthermore, the character of Yossef is said not to be typical of orthodox Jewish men since he takes his wife sexually without love or tenderness, that he hits her when angry, and goes about the streets of Israel with a loudspeaker hawking his religious point of view.

First, it is a shame (if true) that the way Meir dressed and recited his morning prayers was inaccurate, because such details can easily be made accurate with some research. Certainly director Amos Gitai had access to many orthodox people who could have helped him. Putting that aside, the artistic point of the opening scene was to immerse the viewer into a world based on religious beliefs and practices that are strikingly different from the secular world of today. He also wanted to introduce his theme, which is that women in Orthodox Judaism, as in the other two great religions of the Middle East, in their fundamentalist interpretations--this bears repeating: in their fundamentalist interpretations--are not on an equal level with men.

Certainly in a realistic sense, Meir, since he dearly loves his wife, would have chosen something else to recite. However, I think we can give Gitai some artistic license here. The fact that such a prayer exits in the Jewish canon is not to be denied.

Second, the film does NOT claim that Orthodox Judaism requires that a man repudiate his wife after ten years of childless marriage. Instead it makes the very strong point that, from the point of view of Orthodox Judaism, such a woman is not fulfilling her role in society, and that there will be people outside the marriage who will try to persuade him to abandon her. Gitai's screenplay contains several textual pronouncements to that effect. The fact that Meir is torn between his love for his wife and his love for his religion is really the point. How he resolves that dilemma is an individual choice, and that is what the film shows.

As for the unflattering character of Yossef, whom Rivka's sister Malka is persuaded to marry (not forced, mind you, but persuaded) he is a foil and a counterpoint for the loving and deeply religious Meir. The fact that he is not a poster boy for Orthodox Judaism is not a valid criticism of the film, since all religions have their black sheep.

I think a fairer criticism of the film can be made by addressing the question of, was it entertaining and/or a work of art?

Here I have mixed feelings. Certainly the acting was excellent, and the theme a worthy one. Gitai's desire to show the underlying similarities among the conservative expressions of all three Abrahamic religions, through their shared patriarchal attitudes toward women and their estrangement from the postmodern world, was very well taken and appropriate. Where I think Gitai failed as film maker is in his inability to be completely fair to the orthodox way of life--his failure to show the joys as well as the sorrows of its everyday life which would help outsiders to understand why people adhere to such a way of life.

I also think that the film could have been better edited. In the documentary about how the film was made we see scenes that were cut that I think should have been retained, especially the scene in which the omelette was made and the scene in which the mother critiques the life choices her three daughters have made. Instead we have some scenes that ran too long. It is a fine technique that Gitai sometimes employs of letting the silence speak for the characters, of holding the camera on the scene to allow the audience to reflect and then to reflect again. However, I think this can be overdone and was overdone, and that judicious cutting of some of the scenes would have strengthened the movie.

Bottom line: a slow polemic of a movie that nonetheless is worth seeing because of the importance and timeliness of its theme, the originality of some of the techniques, and the fine acting, especially by Yael Abecassis who played Rivka and Meital Barda who played Malka.

One more point: yellow subtitles, please!

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
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horrifying, inexorable, yet full of a suppressed sensuality. (spoiler in final paragraph)
the red duchess31 October 2000
Warning: Spoilers
This is a very serious film about humanity sacrificed for ancient 'ideals'. The opening sequence reminded me of another austere classic, Melville's 'Le Samourai'. A husband and wife lie is separate beds. Over the credits, the husband rises and gets dressed. Simple you might think? Oh no. Every gesture, every item of clothing is accompanied by an elaborate prayer, to the point where the process becomes absurd, almost comic, especially when he prays, with due solemnity, 'Thank God for not making me a woman' (although by the end of the film you tend to agree).

Like Jef Costello, Meir lives in a bare, anonymous room, putting on his 'armour' as he gets ready to go out into the 'outside' world. The patient detail, the steady distanced camera, the emphasis on clothes and identity, all strike me strongly as Melvillean, to the extent that I wonder whether he's going out to kill someone. The nearest to this is when his brother-in-law drives through the streets of Jerusalem, urging by megaphone a retrenchment of Jews, lapsed and Orthodox, in the vengeful war against their enemies. We are seeing the charming outcome of that mentality at the moment. Maybe the comparison with a professional assassin isn't so far-fetched after all.

Another comparison, on the same lines, might be Bresson, given the focus on things, details, actions, and the religious milieu. Whether the bizarrre close can be seen as a moment of Bressonian revelation is debatable, but the relentless misery and humiliation inflicted on the female characters certainly bear his mark; rarely has such a religious environment seemed so unspiritual, like the pious provincial hypocrites in 'Mouchette'. The curious rock singer involved in an illicit relationship also reminded me of d'Oliveira's 'La Lettre'.

I reach for these disparate comparisons because I'd been told that Amos Gitai was one of the world's greatest filmmakers, and that this was a classic. I'm sure both statements are true, I'd have to watch more of his work more closely. Certainly, this film is more immediately sensual than Bresson's - the slow style, the emphasis on ritual detail (right down to the love scenes), the unforgiving milieu do not preclude moments of sensuality or shock, such as Rivka's self-pleasuring in front of her mirror as her husband sleeps, or the shocking virtual rape of her sister on her arranged marriage day, the sexual act as institutional attack, one of the most horrifying, and eventually unwatchable scenes I have ever seen.

What most impressed me about the film was its vision of two world s of time co-existing in the same space, the Orthodox Jewish sect living a rigid life, seemingly unchanged since the Old Testament, and the modern, capitalist world that mocks them. As the sister quite rightly points out, there's a big world, out there; their system is just a time-honoured excuse for men to wield power. There is a Berlin Wall between these two worlds, and when Malka meets her lover, it's like a prisoner escaping an enemy bunker, or someone travelling between two worlds in a time machine.

The film's seemingly transparent style is densely complex in its patterning. Take the first three scenes, which seem to increasingly open out - a woman in bedroom with husband; woman in social situation watching religious ceremony; woman in streets going into shop - but is actually shutting tight possibilities, as the plot, and this society, sets its deadly trap.

It's true that this plot is overly schematic - some have complained that the Orthodox Jews aren't sufficiently understood or explained. Maybe, although Meir is a generally sympathetic character, impotent in so many ways. The fate of Rivka can be read as either pessimistic or liberating - are the final sequences a (wet) dream, a final drenching in female subjectivity of a male hierarchy (including narrative)? Or is it what it seems, a horrible waste of life? The use of the unswervingly monotonous score seems to undermine scenes of apparent change.
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Interesting and unusual.
Andy - Cardiff4 September 2000
I would agree that this film progresses at a very slow pace but the story about the secretive world of orthodox Judaism is interesting. In spite of being traditionalist Hassidism is relatively modern to the long history of the Jewish religion being formed amongst Eastern European Jewry in the 18th century, partly as a reaction to anti-semitism and secularism.

The director Amos Gitai has taken on a very difficult task in portraying this sect of Judaism. What is put across well is the incompatibility of conservative traditionalism with a secular society and how suffocating and repressive religious strictures can be. A good story but one that could have shown in more detail the contrasts between the reality of secular Israeli society and the closed world of mysticism.
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Above the controversy rises Meital Berdah's talent
stevekrief31 January 2006
Some have called this movie anti-religious, other argue that it shows Israel is a real democracy, financing movies which criticize all the aspects of its society, probably in a more abstruse way than European cinema today. More than the controversies and even the story, I remember the actors' talent. Especially Meital Berdah. In the movie, she plays the role of Yaël Abecassis' sister. I would think that in real life, she's Jennifer Connelly's sister. She has the same worrying strength on screen, the same charisma. When Connelly leaves her nightmares in Requeim For A Dream, we're both afraid and attracted by her eyes. The feeling is shared when Berdah leaves her neighborhood for a better life, trying to let a bitter marital experience slide, washed down the drinks of lowlifes who hang around the bar where her lover works.
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An unfriendly distortion
Nozz28 October 2011
Judging from the number of comments, KADOSH seems to have received more international exposure than many better Israeli films have. I would hate to think that the reason is that KADOSH encourages the audience to feel superior to the Orthodox Jews, because as other comments have pointed out, the film misrepresents the lifestyle of Orthodox Jews in both big ways and small. I understand there is a tiny industry of ultra-Orthodox Jewish video dramas in Israel, and it would be interesting to see in contrast how these people portray themselves; but few outsiders are likely ever to see those productions because of their commercial appeal is nil. The portrayal of the ultra-Orthodox is left to well-intentioned distortions like THE SECRETS (a more recent Israeli film) and to viciously intended distortions like this one, in which the camera moves from a dead body to a shelf of Jewish books and a Jewish candelabrum as if to say "The blame lies here."
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Sad and dishonest
ShulemDeen10 September 2001
The film is a gross misrepresentation of Orthodox lifestyle and practice. NEVER will a Jewish court enforce a divorce between childless couples. Although the concept exists in Jewish law, the conditions are too numerous for it to actually ever take place. Childless couples do find it difficult to cope with their childlessness in a community where children are a very important part of life, but nowhere are they "rejected" by their community as depicted in the film. They are treated with extreme sensitivity. In fact, many great Rabbis have lived their entire lives without children and never considered divorce.

The depiction of Yosef, a horrible human being, is meant to - perhaps subconsciously - show the behavior of a typical orthodox male. In reality, it is as typical as a violent drunkard rapist is typical of secular society. Both exist in their own worlds and both are despicable.

It is surprising that so many people form their opinions about a society based on a MOVIE (by someone who is personally biased against a community). I have always thought that it is only the Orthodox, because of their narrow-mindedness and insular lifestyle, who judge all secular people based on the violence and immoral conduct they read about in newspapers or see in the movies.
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a passion-play for animated issues rather than a portrayal of flesh-blood-and-complexities real people.
Trigorin7 March 2003
Here is a film which clearly banks on being marketed as exotica to audiences unfamiliar with its subject matter.

An attempted hybrid of fiction and document, "Kadosh" clumsily falls in between the chairs. As a documentary, on the one hand, it is neither accurate nor insightful. To realize its sloppy handling of detail, one needs to go no further than the opening scene where it is quite obvious that the ultra-orthodox protagonist does not know even so much as how to properly put on his t'filin. More generally, the tedious rote-style presentation of details (in this case of Jewish ultra-orthodox ritual) is the role of a manual, not of a good documentary; the latter should provide an organizing principle (a gestalt, if you will) for the viewer, so that she may emerge with a better understanding of the viewed. This clearly does not happen here, as ultra-orthodox ritual is being made even more enigmatic. The director seems to have done a decent job explaining it all verbally during the film's release campaign; cinematically, however, this is a severe case of stuttering. As a fiction-feature, on the other hand, it suffers from flatness of character, simplicity of plot and bluntness of message. At some points I felt I was watching a cartoon. (e.g. the wedding night consummation scene - without going in detail into angles, positions and dimensions ... well, technically this could not possibly be a realistic portrayal of human sex, savage as it may be.)

There are no subtleties in this film. The clever manipulation of hints, stimulating the viewer's imagination and thought into taking an active part in the cinematic text, which I believe is a mark of a good feature, is completely absent. On the contrary: watching the movie I felt, at times, as being force-fed again and again with the same already chewed-up and way-too-obvious content. It is, indeed, as director Gitai himself put it in an interview, an architectural "shifting objects in space", and then coloring the scenes with the appropriate emotions when called for and advancing the plot on its appropriate and predictable track; but the spark, that creative, duende-like dark, inarticulable spark (let's not forget "Kadosh" is supposedly a tragedy), that which casts on a two-dimensional screen the spell which turns it into an extension of the viewers world, is missing without a trace. Perhaps a work of a visual-engineer, perhaps of an unsophisticated ideologue; definitely not of a true filmmaker. What I saw was a passion-play for animated issues rather than flesh-blood-and-complexities real people. The acting, by and large, failed to transcend this directorial flatness of an idea forced (at times even tortured) into film. One notable, though relatively minor, exception was that of the mikve-lady and the mother, both played by the excellent and seasoned Lea Koenig.

It takes more than strict adherence to a winning formula (namely, a serving of exotica, plus heart wrenching yet simple melodrama, plus a popular agenda, preferably politically correct) to tantalize my interest buds. The bottom line here, all being said, is that for a considerable portion of the movie I was simply bored. In spite of the novel, perhaps even pioneering achievement of using an ultra-orthodox neighborhood as a movie set, for which Mr. Gitai and his crew deserve all praise, I found "Kadosh" way too Nadosh (Hebrew for "trite").
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an empathic view inside a very controlled world
craighubleyca1 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I don't read this film as a simple condemnation of the ultra-orthodox or the treatment of women in some of those communities. The male lead is an extremely empathic character who one cannot but sympathize with as his life is slowly (spoiler!) destroyed by the dictates of his faith - as conveyed by his absolute spiritual leader. The sweet marriage of two people who are very hard not to love, torn apart simply by that faith's dictate that a marriage must bear children, and the contrast with hollow dutiful insincere marriages, even the one the male lead is forced into with a stunning younger woman, makes the viewer ache for this pair to be free of the tyranny. But they're kept in it by their own conditioning, their own inability to question. The minimal but erotic contact with the secular Israeli society is compelling but it doesn't really make either world look that appealing.

Is this typical of ultra-orthodox lives? I very much doubt it. Does it have something to say about faith and belief and the purpose of marriage and love? Absolutely.

I think sympathetic portrayals of genuinely spiritual marriages in film are rare and often the depth of the bond is only hinted at (the scenes between Jessica Lange and Liam Neeson in Rob Roy come to mind). Here it is all there, and mostly in looks, in touches, in movements, and how the couple meets the dictates of their faith while simultaneously genuinely loving each other. It's a tightrope act, though, which ends in a fall - not their own, but after literally being pushed off that tightrope by a bullying "spiritual" leader whose faith is nothing compared to their own. The insincere formulaic ritualistic panic of some of the characters is almost comical. And again contrasts with the sincerity of the couple at the core of the story.

The second time I saw this film, I wept at the beauty of the way they touched and loved each other in the beginning, knowing what would happen to them. I was surprised I could watch it all the way through a second time, so clearly are the emotions portrayed.

This is close to being a masterpiece. I do not think there will be a film made that will portray a deeply religious couple and the way their faith and love can clash, anywhere, as well as this one does. Name one, if you can.
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Probably enraged Ultra-Orthodox audiences... (SPOILERS!)
zardoz1219 September 2003
Warning: Spoilers
...if those people watch movies, that is. "Sacred" is the simple story of two Orthodox Jewish couples living in Jeruselem who are having problems with the lifestyle. The first, Liev and Rivka, are childless with Liev silently blaming Rivka. The second, Yossef and Malka, are a miserable match made by Malka's mother; Malka does not want to be married, and Yossef would rather be more comfortable driving about town in a truck with loudspeakers on it, imploring Jews to come to the run-down synagogue while handing out Orthodox liturature. The source of Malka's dislike of marriage lies with Yaakov, who used to study at the yeshiva with Liev and Yossef, but joined the army and drove a tank around Lebanon. She loves him, but cannot leave the group, or so she thinks. On top of this, the Rabbi is pressuring Liev to annul his marriage because he thinks Rivka is barren.

The problem with "Kadosh" is the same one that "The Holy Land" suffers from: once the film introduces all the characters, you just know what is going to be the end result. I have to agree with the reviewers that Gitai takes one point (Patriarchy is bad) and beats it to death. Like other reviewers, I wish that Gitai would have shown us a little of the joys of Orthodox living, unless that is the director's other point, i.e., that being Orthodox is a lot like being an Objectivist. Definitely the bummer movie of 1999.
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I was ,like, O.K....Secular worls is always more fun ,than religious!
monikaribaitis5 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I don't know what Chasidik movement was this film about?I saw this film a year ago.I am an Orthodox woman, living in an Orthodox Chasidic? community And I can tell you I was offended by this movie!It's so far away from the reality, it's scary ! The director could at least hire a Chasidik Rabbi for a brief consultation, before making a "Realistic" movie about ultra -orthodoxs! For example Meir's Davening (Morning Prayers)! Or a Jewish wedding, or a Mikveh ( ritual bath ) customs.

Movie is loaded with technical inaccuracies..but it's not them that bothered me. It's the spiritual side. Orthodoxs are portrayed next to Taliban. Woman are powerless, while men are the ultimate rulers ! Please!No one can force a Jewish girl to the Chuppa against her will ! We ,Orthodoxs,also, live by the law (Halacha ) which clearly states man's responsibilities towards his wife.No beating and no raping,also!And no man ( even Rabbi)is allowed to peak at the woman in the Mikveh.And Balanit is not to place a hand over woman's head,while she's taking a ritual bath, the idea is to immerse the whole body at one time! Director was clearly trying to bash Ultra Orthodoxs ! But could he do so at least in a nice and more educated manner?

Love story? Cute ! But not credible.Dialogs are long and boring.The ending sucked totally.For all that drama I was at least hoping for a nice ending ,for all that sitting I felt I deserved it! Obviously someone was trying to make a nice consciousness soothing movie for less observant Jews, or for Non- Jews, perhaps..(look at those Fundamentalist, they are so evil and mean...)and they succeed! Long thing short: Was hoping for a nice Europien (Kane level ) movie, got instead a tradition bashing, unrealistic,mistakenly guiding junk. I mean , today,we live in a time of a free will as never before. Everyone has a right to choose. Malka chose a rock singer.Rivka made her choice.Meir made his. Many people from non observing backgrounds are choosing Orthodox Judaism these days.Because,in this mad world Religion might be a nice gateway !
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A Postcard From The Holy Land
Marat-211 June 1999
I saw "Kadosh" when it was screened in Israel for the first time, following its participation in the Canne Festival. Amos Gitai, the most acclaimed Israeli film maker abroad, made me understand here why he is not exactly known inside his country. Well, "Kadosh" is a postcard. It shows the ultraorthodox jewish society in Jerusalem in an extremely stereotypic view, developing a story, that most of it looks too much "Hollywood like" to any person living in Israel. I must say the movie is totally uneven, moving between interesting and entertaining towards grotesque and melodramatic. Yael Abekasis, Yoram Hatab and Uri Klausner make wonderful parts, unlike the newcomer Meital Barda as an orthodox girl cheating her husband with a music band leader (Sami Hori). Both of them get mostly irritating lines, which often bring the movie towards being shallow and childish. Anyway, I wouldn't watch it again, but I guess it was worth spending a couple of hours in the movie theater. My Grade: *** (out of *****)
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Inferior script, criminally lazy characterization, wooden acting
Shlomtzie30 April 2000
As a writer and a lapsed Orthodox Jewish woman, I was let down tremendously by this movie. The dialogue is hackneyed and wasteful, the characters, too engaged with lines ranging from the wrackingly prosaic to the stunningly melodramatic, aren't allowed to expand into genuinely textured individuals. The one-trick musical score tries to make up for the blandness, swooping portentously into the silence to jar the viewer and the script out of protracted catatonia.

Like an adolescent revolutionary on a self-righteous tirade, this film is blown away by the wisdom of its revelation--patriarchy is wrong--and thoroughly squanders its energies, hammering on this point. The resultant artistic crime is a complete lack of imaginative development; the moral crime is the reduction of human beings to caricatures: martyrs and grotesques.
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Melodrama at its worst.
noamfischman23 February 2002
The movie opens with a scene that simply could not be. A man wakes up and while his wife remains in bed, he begin his morning prayers in his bedroom while his wife sleeps peacefully. Morning blessings are recited, but only the ones Gitai finds controversial. the rest are conveniently omitted. then while in philactories and a tallis he kisses his wife good morning!! This is not an accurate depiction of jewish prayer in any home, let alone a chassidic home. Amos Gittai is not interested in accurately portraying chassidic life. He is interested in adding to his ever growing list of melodramatic and empty films. The mikka (ritual bath) scenes are far from accurate and his jewish wedding was laughable as it does not even approach the atmosphere of a chassidic wedding. I have many problems with the chassidic way of life, but i have no use for Amos Gittai's commentary on these issues. He would have you think that the chassidim are all dense comformists with severe bouts of depression. I may not agree with the chassidic lifestyle, but i acknowledge that chassidic life has many layers. Amos Gitai is blinded by his own secularist pseudo-intellectual stubborness and is therefore, incapable of portraying an accurate depiciton of chassidic life. Aside from his poor research and unbalanced portrayal of chassidic life, Gitai fails in other aspects as well. The plot is full of holes, the dialogue loaded with silence, the soundtrack is too repetitive and the acting while at times powerfull was too often loaded with melodrama. The movie drags on and on and the ending is not worth sticking around for. watch if you must, but be warned. If you want to learn about chassidic life go to the communities and talk to chassidim. Do not rely on Gittai's film!
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5 Minutes of Sex and an hour of saying "What Have We Done?"
zasu-222 June 2001
The one line summary is actually the punch line of a very old joke that begins "what is a Jewish porno film?"

While this film had its interesting moments, it was far too slow moving and did not do enough to explain to those of us in the audience unfamiliar with orthodox Jewish custom, exactly what was going on and why? How many people who came across this film would know that the bathtub the female characters were washing in is in reality called a "Mikveh" which is a ritual bath used to cleanse spiritual uncleanliness? The same question might be asked of why the bride was walked around the groom a dizzying number of times while her face was covered just prior to the marriage vows being performed. These two examples are but two of a large number of such moments that remained completely unexplained to the uninitiated audience.

This film does have its touching moments along with expressions of great love and emotions. The characters are presented very authentically right down to the number of garments an ultra orthodox Jewish male must wear as well as the religious rituals he must engage in upon awakening in the morning to begin his day. The attitudes orthodox Judaism has towards women in general and wives in particular is both intriguing and at times maddening. This is another reason why more explanation is needed if this story is to be understood in context.

I recommend this film to people who are familiar with orthodox Jewish tradition and ritual as well as those who might be interested in getting a brief peek at what the lives of people who practice this way of life is like.

The story itself about two sisters who in their own ways rebel against "the system" is of moderate interest at best.
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Endlessly flawed and overall a complete crock!
keff17 May 2005
It is apparent that director, writers and everyone else knows nothing about their own religion or the people who practice it. This movie is endlessly flawed and overall a complete crock.

For instance, there is a scene where the rabbi enters the woman's ritual bath while a naked woman is bathing, puts his hand on the head of a woman there and blesses her. This is complete mockery of the laws, in this scene alone some of the laws broken include: Modesty, a rabbi would never enter a ritual bath house while there are woman in it.

Improper contact, a rabbi would never put his hand on a woman's head, not to mention that it is not the way a blessing is given.

The woman from the ritual bath is dunking a naked woman by pushing her head under the water, the laws regarding ritual bathing require the entire body to make direct contact with the bath water; this means nobody should be in contact with the person bathing, certainly not pushing them under!

There was more just in that scene alone, like dunking 13 times (where does that concept even come from?) not to mention the rest of the movie was a total fallacy. It is scary what ignorance can concoct!
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Question the way women are treated in traditional religion?
simonev4518 October 2000
I was very moved by Kadosh, which I think is a very fine movie. Some scenes are a bit sketchy, and I was puzzled by the ending. But the acting is superb and the story is deeply moving.

I walked away angry at the way women are treated in this ultra orthodox religious sect of Judaism, but it could have been an ultra religious Christian sect or some other religion - the point is that too many traditional religions treat women as seond class, oppressed persons.

Remember what Marx said: Religion is the opiate of the people. perhaps he was correct!
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a bad film on a complex and painful subject
dromasca1 January 2008
I somehow failed for a few years to see this film, although it has been quite successful and generated a lot of discussions in Israel. I am sorry that I did not postpone indefinitely seeing it.

The theme of 'Kadosh' is a very real and painful one for those who know the Jewish religious world - the place of women in the orthodox family and society. The basic situation that sits at the premises of the film is possible, the problem is that the way it is brought to screen and the 'solution' that the conflicts described receives in the movie is wrong. Gitai does not seem to have too much sympathy for men in the religious world, but his approach of picking characters that are either fanatic, or unable to express their human feeling makes the whole story seem simplistic. Neither does he a much better service to his women characters, although here at least he shows more sympathy and he also enjoys the participation of two beautiful and gifted actresses in Yael Abecassis and Meital Barda. Overall Gitai's vision is too one-sided, his cinema means are too basic, he focuses on the technical details of the Jewish religious life, which may be interesting for people who do not know them but are really not relevant at all in the context of the whole story. Starting from interesting premises what we get here is a boring film which seems longer than it is, with a very static way of acting, obsessive use of music that plays in the same register not only from a musical but also from an emotional perspective and a very inconclusive if not even confusing ending. What difference between this film and 'Ha Ushpizin' inspired from and describing the very same social landscape and which succeeded to transmit human feelings on the screen. In 'Kadosh' there are both too little cinema and too little human emotions.
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gripping but sometimes slow
FilmLabRat22 April 2003
A great story and well-shot. But at times, things move too slowly for my taste. This inherently feminist critique is also the type of film that begs for theological critique, because the concerns of the depicted society are only understood within the context of their theology, an understanding of the documents they follow and where they and their subsequent traditions originate. Why can the women not stand up or fight back at all? Are they really that powerless? If they studied as the men did, they could, potentially (I have studied both the Torah and the Talmud as well as Hebrew and Jewish customs). What is the perspective of the filmmaker? An ex-Jew most likely? And what alternatives are there? This anti-orthodox, anti-tradition social problem film is a gripping story, even without background details. Well worth seeing.
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Anti-Orthodox Screed That Does No Favor For Feminists
noralee8 October 2005
My mother told me not to go to see "Kadosh" -- but who ever listens to one's mother?

I was so turned off by it while I was watching I thought I must have lost my feminist credentials on the way into the theater, so I checked with card-carrying feminists the next day. No, they also thought it was much more an anti-Orthodox screed than a pro-feminist statement, painting the Orthodox as equal to the Taliban.

While this Israeli movie is careful to show that the sect the story is about is the ultimate ultra-Orthodox Messianists, it is so nasty as to be unbelievable (plus that the non-fanatic Orthodox rock-'n'-roller(!) one of the sisters is in love with is incredibly sexy--even in Israel that must be fantasy).

The theater was quite crowded, so there's a pent-up curiosity to see Israeli movies; too bad this vicious movie is the one getting wide distribution. This was almost enough to drive me back to insipid Hollywood romantic movies.

(originally written 4/29/2000)
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Inaccurate enough to ruin it
jeffreydorfman15 May 2007
I have many ultra-Ortodox cousins in Jerusalem. As much as I love them, I will be forever uncomfortable with the status of women in the community. One of my cousins, who was in a way the younger sister I never had, is now stuck in what I view as a terrible marriage that would never last in most Western societies -- rightfully so, I think. Yet, there, it is accepted and she must live with it. (Just one example of many...)

Having said that, this movie does not portray this world with any truth, actual or figurative. This is not a story as it might have happened. Sad in a way, as the truth could have been used to make some aspects of the point Amos Gitai seems to wish to make. He also neglects the warm, loving and spiritually nurturing environment that the haredi world can be.

So, if you watch this cardboard movie, please remember it has nothing to do with the texture of reality.
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Good film, but only for deep people
Exiled_Archangel26 February 2003
It's so sad that some people still live according to religion, or what they know as religion, in the 21st century. We always see and hear about the extremism in Islam and Christianity, but this film manifests the fact that extremism in Judaism is not so innocent either. Being a big fan of Israel in international arena, I was astonished to see how mediocre some people can be even in my favourite country. The religious extremism virtually wrecks the lives of two women in this film, and nobody's quite happy about that except for the rabbi, nor does anyone benefit from the women's dreadful situation. There comes the question: Those of you stuck with religion dedicate their lives to doing favours to God, but does your almighty God really need your favours at innocent people's expense? Of course the women in question apparently tend to rely on the ultra-orthodox society and don't make a sufficient effort to break away. But all this is still very very sad and disturbing. And there's the segregation of "real God's people" and "the others". Israel is not the only place with that phenomenon for sure, but it's a country with a good amount of both types so it's more obvious there. One group regards the others as profanes and those "profanes" think the others are unnecessary losers who have no lives. Unfortunately people tend to remember such sad facts only when films like this are made. So it's a good idea to watch this film and grab some culture.

As for the film itself, I think the acting is brilliant, and the plot is outstanding. Typical Amos Gitai style, emphasizing some scenes and leaving them on screen for way longer than 99.9% of the viewers would find necessary. Most young people and superficial people regardless of age would find this film to be fairly boring. But I think it's right next door to being a masterpiece. If you enjoy films dealing with social issues in different cultures, and if you prefer enabling yourself to empathize with different peoples and cultures to seeing naked bodies, then do not miss this film. 9/10 from me.
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May be incomprehensible to non-Jews
gelman@attglobal.net30 September 2004
This is a superb movie -- reminiscent of A Pearl Among Rubies in its depiction of a woman's plight in the Orthodox Jewish community. It may, however, be a more difficult film than a Pearl Among Rubies for a non-Jew to understand or credit. Kadosh focuses on the situation of two sisters in a religious culture that expects women to produce children and to devote all their energies to raising them and to caring for their husbands while the husbands spend full time studying Torah and Talmud. One of the sisters has been married for 10 years but has never conceived and is therefore considered a failure in her primary responsibility as a wife (though it's quite possible that the husband is the one who is sterile) Her younger sister is betrothed and soon married to a man she does not love and who is mainly interested in impregnating her, not in making love to her. I won't spoil the plot by spelling out what happens to them. I'm sure this will seem unbelievable to those who have never encountered the Ultra Orthodox communities [stress the plural; they are not identical] in Israel. Could this story happen? Among the more intransigent sects? I'm inclined to think so. Although the problem for the woman in A Pearl Among Rubies (Renee Zellweger -- the first time I ever saw her), the story is easier to comprehend, both because it is in English and because it is far more external and filled with incident than Kadosh. It is also more sensational and somewhat less believable. What makes Kadosh so effective is the silences, which often endure for minutes, leaving the viewer to imagine the thoughts of the characters on screen. The most serious defect of the film for those who don't speak Hebrew is the difficulty, especially on a small screen, of reading the subtitles (often set against a light background). That prevents it from being a 10. I give it a 9.
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Editorial Against Fundamentalism
simuland21 April 2000
Gritty, realistic indictment of religious fanaticism among the ultra-orthodox Chasidic Jews of the Mea Shearim section of Jerusalem, a place so extreme that women are stoned for daring to go sleeveless, cars stoned if driven on the sabbath. The film's exceptionally deliberate, slow pacing and ascetic economy steadily build an unbroken, smoldering, muted intensity, which, along with the fact that it offers a rare, highly detailed glimpse into an insular world, is probably why this modest production was the first from Israel to be accepted for screening at Cannes in 25 years.

The dramatic structure is simple, symmetric: two sisters, one forced out of, the other into marriage, dramatize the severe oppression of this fundamentalist sect. Woman's only function is to procreate, to furnish the legions who will overrun the sect's enemies. In his morning devotions the husband thanks god for not making him a woman. Kadosh, which means sacred or holy, is here used scathingly, bitterly ironically.

The personal needs of the individual--love, privacy, self-determination--are pitted against the demands of society, an old theme. Though this particular sect is unusual, downright medieval, in its absolute adherence to the letter of the law, it is not unlike in kind, if not degree, fundamentalism everywhere else. All fundamentalists view sex with suspicion and dread, all strive to restrict it. Femininity is uniformly degraded, regarded as inherently unclean, the devil's work.

The film's only misstep, the death, occurs at the very end, but it weakens the credibility of everything that preceded it. Though its justice is poetic, its unlikelihood and obvious appeal to emotion belie the restrained realism of the rest of the film, jumping out like an editorial intrusion in a factual documentary, striking as false a note as magic realism would have in this context. It made wonder about the politics and intent of writer-director Gitai.

The majority of Israeli's do not cast a dispassionate eye on their Chasidic brethren. The ultra-orthodox wield a disproportionate power over the life of Israel by virtue of their crucial swing vote in a fragmented multiparty system. Just as no Republican can hope to secure a presidential nomination without the backing of the Christian Right, even though it accounts for only 15% of the GOP, so to no Prime Minister can be elected in Israel without the support of the fundamentalists of Mea Shearim. Because of this they are able to inflict on the nonsectarian majority their sectarian laws concerning the observance of the sabbath, dietary restrictions, divorce, etc., in addition to refusing to participate in the universal military draft. The divisions are deep and rancorous. The purposes of Kadosh may be overly specific, vengeful, political. Though opposite, it may be as drastic as what it condemns. The Chasids, particularly the Rabbi and groom-to-be, are portrayed as authoritarian ogres.

Whatever its faults, however, at least it deals with fundamentalism on a more level playing field than two fundamentalist films released recently, The Straight Story and Color of Paradise, which by no small coincidence were shown in the very same theater. Unlike the latter two, a least it doesn't hold out false promises, hide a sinister heart behind a smiling face. Not surprisingly, the theater was practically empty, as opposed to being nearly full for the other two, escapist, vehicles. (If I were a fundamentalist, mightn't it be too easy to deride film as corrupt, the enjoyment of Philistines?)
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arrange marriage is hard ..
afterdarkpak9 July 2020
First jewish movie i have seen , even im muslim . there are really some things are common, especially this ARRANGED marriage.
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