Since the beginning of quarantine, you probably have had enough time to skim Netflix’s catalogue in its entirety between business meetings and yoga sessions you both do from your leaving-room. Then, you may have noticed this new German show – Unorthodox – among the ranking of the most-watched series on the platform. The show consists of only four episodes which recount Esty’s life, a young ultra-orthodox Jewish girl from New York who, one day, chooses to leave the community she grew in for Berlin. There, she hopes to live a fulfilling life free from religious duties.
Inspired by Deborah Feldman’s autobiography entitled Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots (2012), Anna Winger and Alexa Karolinski decided to tell Esty’s life – a fictional character – through a very inspiring and moving show.
Esty is a nineteen-year-old young woman who grew up within the Satmar Hasidic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She has never left New York, and strict religious precepts drive her life. Raised by her granny and her aunt, Esty enters into an arranged marriage with Yanki, a member of the same community. A year later, she decides to go to Berlin without leaving any trace. Once she has crossed the Atlantic Ocean, one can witness Esty’s metamorphosis who gradually learns how to reclaim her own body and who discovers new feelings of freedom, especially through music, a passion her community forbade her to practice.
If some scenes can look a bit unlikely – this may be due to the program’s short format – Unorthodox still offers a heartening story about a brave and powerful woman. The Israeli actress Shira Haas wonderfully interprets the role of Esty in both English and Yiddish. She had already previously stood out by her talent and delicate performance in Shtisel, an Israeli television drama distributed by Netflix.
Tonight, switch off your phone and assist to Esty’s rebirth through this poignant show … and be ready for a binge-watching session!
Article by Léah Boukobza