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Shtisel Season 3
— Once again, you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy following the ups and downs of the Shtisel family. . .
By Elyse Sommer
While religion defines the look and enhances the texture of this Isreali series, its characters' yearning for companionship and family are universal and touched a chord with even Netflix viewers who tend to favor more action-packed, trendy fare. And so, Shtisel became a Netflix hit and the global fan base that followed the family's tzuris for two sessons has been eagerly waiting to see the Shtisels once again tackle themes easy to identify with no matter what the viewer's faith or lifestyle: dealing with love and loss . . . . testing modernity without abandoning tradition. . . navigating complex relationships and generational differences.
As the outside world kept ratcheting up the challenges of being true to Haredic customs, so the pandemic has has also made filming that third season incredibly challenging. But the creators and actors overcame all the difficulties of presenting a new set of storylines without losing the authenticity of the setting and live interactions. Rehearsals involved constant testing and rest for cast and crew, wearing masks except when being filmed.
To cut right to the chase. . . . The third season is every bit as absorbing as the first two. It's again superbly scripted and delivered with finely nuanced performances — in fact, more so, since the current nine episodes weave the many plot threads and themes into one big human tapestry that broadens the relevancy of the storytelling. That said, it still provides hours of escape from the real and still uncertain world we live in.
Like the previous series, the new one can be watched an episode at a time or binged through in a few big virtual mouthfuls. Either way is fine. However, since the initial seasons are also still available to stream, I'd suggest that Shtisel newbies play catch-up with their past joys and sorrows first.
The two central characters throughout the Shtisel saga are the family patriarch Shulem Shtisel (Dov Glickman), Rabbi at the local yeshiva, and his youngest son Akive (Michael Alon). Their companionable but complicated relationnship and its effect on Akiva's longing to be a painter and marrying someone who may not be what the local matchmaker sends his way.
in the second season's finale. Akiva had gotten over losing his first fiancee, a twice widowed older woman, but his engagement Libbi (Hadas Yaron), was not problem free. While Libbi returned his feelings she wanted a normal Haredi style life. That meant a husband with a job, not a painter, even one with a growing reputation like Akiva . While it looked as if Libbi might support Akiva's painting career, the series didn't end with a big wedding but left viewers wondering about the future of the relationship.
The new season fast forwards from that open-ended season two conclusion and the promotional trailer makes no secret of the fact that Akiva did brek the glass under the huppah and he and Libbi are married. What's more they have a baby girl named Devorah for the Shtisel matriarch who died in the second season. With the death of a Shtisel wife and mother to grieve for in the first two seasons, I'm hardly being a spoiler when I tell you to expect another loss to figure importantly.
As you can also see from the above-mentioned trailer and the picture I've included her, Shulem and Akiva still spend time around that kitchen table. But plenty of scenes are in familiar and new settings and the rest of the Shtisels are all on board .
I won't go into spoiler territory with details about the grief that dominates this season except to note that it inspires some of the most profound actions and interactions.
Akiva and Shulem still spend plenty of time sitting around the kitchen table of Shulem's apartment. And they still eat a lot.
One new setting is the restaurant run by Akiva's sister Giti Weiss (Neta Riskin), a gifted cook, with the help of husband Lippe (Zohar Shtrauss). Running a successful restaurant adds a #MeToo flavor, except that Giti still wants to have her family fit into the Haredi community. Tovi (Eliana Shechter), the wife of Akiva's brother Zvi (Sarel Pitermate) more zestfully and amusingly acts on her #MeToo of independence by learning to drive and buying a car.
Giti's desire for the Weiss family's doing everything according to community customs means that this season it's her 19-year-od son Yossele Weiss (Gal Fishel) who's ready for marriage. Unsurprisingly, he too is not going to please either his mom or the matchmaker. His path to the altar involves a mistaken identity plot device that works well, and brings on two delightful new cast members (Reef Neeman as Shira Levi and Bar Misochnik as Shira Levinzon).
Shulem and brother Nukhem (Vasson Gabay) also have some amusing scenes with a nother new to this season character (Miki Kam as Nechama Yoktan) who might bring their lonely wiidowed state to an end. But the most interesting new character is a young woman named Rachelli Warburg who has bought one of Akiva's paintings. The role is beautifully played by Daniella Kertesz .
Giti and Lippe's daughter Ruchami Weiss, (the wonderful Shira Haas, who played the lead in Unorthodox a very different take on the ultra orthodox Jewish life), gets to wind things up with a punch-to-the-heart joyful scene for a a series heavily imbued with sadness.
Review of the first two seasons of Shtisel
(I originally covered this together with The Msrvelous Maisel as I thought it woud be nice to turn the stories of two very different Jewish families as a double feature).
The members of the the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Haredi community we meet in this series that's been streaming on Netflix since last December' are unfamiliar to most of us. The men spout long beards with side curls, wear black fringed ritual garments, and don big black hats when they go outside. The women sleep with snoods covering their hair and not in the same bed as their husbands.
Even in Israel these practioners of ancient customs and the fact that their young people don't serve in the army has made them outliers, subject to scorn, hostility and controversy. But Shtisel is not a political drama. It's essentially a rather ordinary story of father and son relationships, romantic yearnings that don't fit traditional mating customs, marital conflicts, parental and community opposition to young people exploring talents and urges contrary to the community's ways.
None of the show's female characters are likely to inspire any fashion trends. Neither are the men's ritual outfits and hair styles. For sure, the family patriarch, Shulem Stisel (Dov Glickman), isn't likely to have female viewers swooning. But wait. . .
Like everything that's made Shtisel such an unlikely success, the beard and unsexy outfits not withstanding, plenty of dating age female viewers have been smitten by Michael Aroni's Akiva Shtisel, the youngest Shtisel son who lives with his father. Even those not attracted to romantic soap opera-ish entertainment have been charmed by Akiva's sensitive character Given Aroni's nuanced portrayal they rooted for him to realize his passion for art.
And so, over the course of two seasons and 24 episodes —young and old, male or female, Jewish or not— have succumbed to what some have dubbed Shtiselmania. Viewers one and all hoped that the eager to be married Akiva would end up happily mated — and that he could indeed be the artist he's obviously meant to be. The way it all turned out was left inconclusive enough for plenty of further developments to unfold in a third season.
While the senior Shtisel is gruff, often cruel and hardly a showboat, there was certainly no shortage of women of a certain age willing to cook him meals in hopes of becoming Mrs. Shulem Shtisel #2 —especially Aliza Gvili's Orly Silbersatz, his loyal sceretary at the Yeshiva he heads. The autocratic Shulem too is not a one dimensional figure. He clearly has a soft side. That tender aspect of his character makes it hard for him to do more than accept the meals from potential wives since he feels bound to be true to the memory of his dead wife. In an especially touching scene we see him in front of the closet that belonged to his late wife to breathe in her scent from a row of dresses.
The focus of the relationships explored is on Akiva's troubled love affair with the twice widowed Elisheva (Ayelet Zurer) who is raising a son on her own (for all their inhibitions, the women here are all strong). However , the lives of the rest of the family are also developed into very watvhable sub-plots.
Some of the best scenes are about Akiva's sister Giti Weiss (Neta Riskin) who has a hard time forgiving her husband Lippe (Zohar Shtrauss) for the time he took off for Argentina and left her to take care of their five children. There's also a third romance between young Ruchami Weiss (Shira Haas) and a dedicated Yeshiva student.
Ultimately what has made Shtisel such irresistible viewmg are the universal themes of family bonds, the hold of the dead on the living , and the pull beween new ways of living and tradition — all presented within the very authenticaly detailed framework of a mysterious to us community.
To conclude, my bottom line: I expected The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel to be more fun and marvelous than it was. On the other hand, while Fiddler on the Roof is my all-time favorite musical, a multi-episode drama about an ultra-orthodox family didn't really pull me in. It's only after several of my friends who I knew appreciated good theater urged me to give it a try. And sure enough I was hooked after the first episode and did indeed find Shtisel quite marvelous.
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Created by Ori Elon and Yehonatan Indursky
Directed by: Aton Ziegman
Cinematography: Roev Roth
Musc: Avi Belleli
Principal Cast and Characters
Michael Alon ( Akiva Shtisel )
Dov Glickman (Shulem Shtisel)
Ruchami Weiss (Shira Haas)
Hadas Yaron ( Libbi Shtisel)
Neta Riskin (Giti Weiss)
Zohar Shtrauss (Lippe Weiss)
Yossele Weiss (Gal Fishel)
Sarel Piterman (Zvi Arye Shtisel)
Eliana Shechter (Tovi Shtisel)
Vasson Gabay (Nukhem Shtisel)
Daniella Kertesz (Racheli Warburg)
Miki Kam (Nechama Yoktan)
Reef Neeman (Shira Levi)
Bar Misochnik (Shira Levinzon)
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer March 28, 2021