The Secrets

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 11, 2008 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Lesbians & Gays

The Secrets (Ha-Sodot)  follows two young students in an all-female seminary in Safed, Israel.

Desire, awareness, a need for fulfillment, and stretching  religious tradition  makes things as messy for them. This is a  situation many Catholic lesbians, or feminist Catholic women, for that matter, can immediately identify with.   It almost always leads to a crossroads, where either choice brings loss as well as new, fertile ground.

The heroine of The Secrets is Naomi,  the brilliant, beautiful, and headstrong daughter of a revered Orthodox Israeli rabbi.   The film begins with Naomi entreating her father to postpone her marriage to his sour, self-righteous protege so she can pursue her religious studies at a seminary for women in Safed, the birthplace of the Kabbalah.   Her distant dream is to one day become the first female Orthodox rabbi in a culture in which men smugly dismiss women’s conversations as “idle chat.”

Naomi begins to change when she forms a friendship with Michelle, one of her roommates. A sullen, chain-smoking Parisian student, Michelle’s family sent her to the seminary for disciplinary reasons. The two students fall in love. the-secret.jpg

When Michelle visits Naomi during the Jewish holidays the two friends become lovers. Naomi, consulting sacred texts, determines there is no law against lesbian love, that homosexuality is taboo only for men, who spill their seed.

Their passionate explorations in  romance and religion eventually get them expelled from the seminary. Michelle also becomes torn between Naomi, and a  kind-hearted man, a  klezmer clarinetist.

Near the film’s end they drift apart–Michelle toward marriage and Naomi toward declaring her independence   in a society dominated by men.

“This is a movie about desire,” one rabbi commented. “Frustrated desire. Fulfilled desire.”

See the movie trailer here.  

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