Sometimes in our lives, there’s nothing sadder than looking down at the toilet paper roll in a bathroom stall and seeing only the empty cardboard ring. There’s no moment more lonely, no feeling so isolating, no issue equally pressing. Nitzan Gilday’s film, Wedding Doll, showing at Cornell Cinema this Wednesday, puts things in perspective. Because, there is something sadder than looking at that hopeless cardboard ring: A paperless roll in a toilet paper factory’s solitary bathroom. And, believe it or not, there are moments more desperate than that.
Wedding Doll tells Hagit’s story. She’s a beautiful young Israeli woman, longing for independence despite her mental disabilities. Hagit hopes to one day wear a white wedding gown. So, Gilday subtly surrounds the character in every seemingly meaningless form of the color to isolate the power in the wedding dress’ whiteness. In his compassionate and heart-breaking film, Gilday simply and ironically reveals how that toilet paper hue connects and separates our lives.
White toilet paper, white shirt, white sheets, white towels, white yarmulke, white cigarette, white cellphone, white teeth, white subtitles. Gilday, although filming mundane scenes in Hagit’s and her mother Sara’s quiet lives, interjects the color in every changing setting in the same way that Hagit’s wedding dreams touch her every thought. The dull cardboard brown of the empty toilet paper roll makes us feel desperate for a moment. We reach over to the stall next to ours, we call for a younger sibling, we’re freed from our despair. Gilday’s film shows how Hagit’s disabilities color her days in futile cardboard rings. Our most desperate moments don’t compare to Hagit’s deficiencies. To Hagit, being made a bride means liberating herself from feelings of inadequacy. It means looking down at the toilet paper dispenser and seeing a fresh, full roll. In a sensitive and simplistic lens, Wedding Doll relays this feeling of helpless dependence to all audiences.
Wedding Doll stitches together the most disparaging moments of a mundane life in order to show the true pain of living with disabilities. Gilday films the vulnerability we feel throughout the day — unanswered phone calls, locked doors, canceled plans, empty promises — to allow his viewers a glimpse into Hagit’s suffering. Our natural sympathy toward anyone faced with the dreaded empty roll is Hagit’s salvation. Her well-being depends on the understanding of those around her, and Gilday fittingly constructs her happiest moments around this seemingly useless object. It’s her binoculars, her decorations and the foundation for her cardboard doll. Hagit’s life echoes the desperation of an empty roll and improves by the united compassion the roll elicits.
The film beautifully shows the importance in finding meaning in what seems useless. Meta-cinematically, The director and the content echo the film’s characters. Gilday sees inspiration in that white toilet paper. Hagit does the same. Viewer’s fall in love with both of their initiatives. Wedding Doll is an innovative story. One day, we’ll produce no more cardboard rolls and just how light bulbs have shifted to the twisted, energy saving kind, our toilet paper will be wound around itself rather than that seemingly wasteful ring. Gilday sees the purposelessness in the roll and gives it a new function. In the same way, outsiders must look at Hagit and see the beauty and promise in her deficiencies.
Gilday’s telling of Hagit’s story makes us all feel a little helpless, a little scared of our destiny, a little unsure of our worth. It’s a film filled with disappointments and expectations. Hopes we have for ourselves, pressures we put on each other, and prejudices we place on groups and objects. Gilday challenges the way we think by uniting his viewers on common subjects and priming them to continue in their compassion on more difficult issues. He places the prosaic white toilet paper next to the powerful white wedding dress to compare our own struggles with Hagit’s.
When situated next to one another, Gilday’s characters and their interwoven sufferings unroll with unending sympathy. Every hardship seems to flow into the next in a way that resonates with a human defenselessness. Like the circularity of the empty roll, Hagit’s hope for belonging affects all of us at some time in our lives. Each protagonist in the film, Hagit, her mother, Sara, and her best friend, Omri, all struggle to play the role they want for themselves and the one that society imposes. Ultimately, all shades of Gilday’s white blend together: the pure, the toxic, the chaste, the bland, the angelic and the ghostly. Wedding gown white acts to unite people and also to create new boundaries. The rest of the white in our lives makes us who we are. It’s the color of our bones and the foundation on which we color our actions, attitudes and opinions. Wedding Doll hauntingly exposes the way every person affects another just as every color fades away to white.
We’re surrounded by white everyday, but it’s not often that we realize its presence. In Wedding Doll, Gilday forces us to stop and see. He calls our attention to that which is often looked over. What he shows us we won’t soon forget. Don’t miss it.
Julia Curley is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]