Israeli actress Hadas Yaron plays an inhibited and closeted Hasidic Jew in Maxime Giroux’s powerful drama Félix et Meira.
Yaron came from her native Israel to Montreal to shoot in minus 30 degree temperatures but that didn’t shut down her enthusiasm for the project.
She plays Meira, an Hasidic Jew under the control of her Orthodox fiancé when she embarks on an affair with a gentile.
The affair lifts her out of the staid, traditional world she knows and into freedom but at what cost? The film’s reflective point of view brings her struggle into sharp focus and lets us feel her joy.
Yaron’s deeply felt portrayal of a woman unbound is remarkable. We spoke with Yaron about her work in the film which is in theatres in the US now.
On the face of it, Meira is in a bad situation, closed off by her traditional lifestyle and her husband’s rigid, unforgiving views. And suddenly she meets a man and comes into bloom. Meira is not especially vocal, so how were you able to express that shift?
As always, when preparing for a role, one builds an inner world for the character. That, alongside with the actions of a character, as the story develops – expresses and brings to life what the character is going through.
Personally, one of the things that I loved about the script and about Meira’s character, is exactly that. I don’t think that everything a character goes through should be verbalized or spoken. I believe one can understand a lot about a character’s journey without words that necessarily need to be spoken.
Felix and Meira’s relationship is dangerous because any movement she makes outside his control will result in her being ostracized. Yet, she defies it all.
Meira is in a phase in her life where she feels lost and not certain of everything she was brought up upon. Felix enters her life at just the right time bringing along something unfamiliar and refreshing but most importantly, he makes her feel comfortable about herself.
She is going through a process of exploration and getting to know herself. She is making that choice because at that moment in her life she is willing to take that risk, as her curiosity, naivety and deep quest are leading her that way.
You created a sympathetic and recognisable character. Did you take anything from your own life for the part?
As human beings, I think we are in a constant search for meaning and happiness, so even though Meira’s life is different from mine, she is not different from me or from anyone in her basic needs and desires. And so, I could relate to the conflicts she was dealing with.
Non-Jews learn a lot about Hasidic culture from the film, such as the importance of allowing her lover to see her without a wig. What did that moment mean for Meira? What does it say about where she is in her life?
A woman can’t show her natural hair (or sing in front of men) because her sensual power allegedly lies in her hair and voice. When she lets Felix take off her wig, she is being so exposed and vulnerable in front of him.
In my opinion, it was the equivalence to a love scene because for Meira, and I think that maybe for Felix as well, it was a deep sense of intimacy, which was totally new for her and maybe for him as well. In that sense, this scene represents a point of no return.
How was it working with an ex-Orthodox actor as your husband? How did he feel about his role?
Luzer Twersky is first of all a great actor and we also became very close friends. I enjoyed working alongside him very much.
He helped me with the Yiddish parts and also his perspective as an ex-Orthodox was very helpful in understanding the mind set of Meira. Our experience together was unique and powerful. As for how he felt about his role, I am sure he will answer that with pleasure.
But I do believe it was a powerful experience for him as it was very personal. He gave his heart to the role and to the film- he helped all of us in so many ways and he is incredible. He gave the part of Shulem sensitivity and vulnerability that made this role so empathetic and complex, and not just the “villain husband” that it could have been.