A Price Above Rubies Essay, Research Paper
" I?m going to question whatever I like",
" I?m going to choose whatever side I want and if God happens to be on the other side then so be it." I believe these two quotes capture the essence of the film " A Price Above Rubies". The main character, Sonia Horowitz, a Hasidic Jew, embarked on a journey in which she sought to find herself through questioning her faith and the strict Jewish life.In doing so, she paid a heavy price. This, I believe, to be the message of the film.
The movie starts off with a close up of a ring being crafted, incomplete. Then we see sonia?s brother, Yossi, telling her the story of the woman who broke free of the Jewish community. The woman?s father wanted her to marry a great scholar and lead a good spiritual life. After leaving, she wanders back years later, with child. The community shuns the child, and when she dies, heaven rejects her, so she goes to hell, but the devil cannot bear to see her suffer anymore because he recognizes her as his niece, so she wanders the earth for eternity. The woman is the daughter of a demon. Sonia tells Yossi -
" I love you more than anything", when Yossi asks her if she loves him more than God. Yossi tells her she is a sinner and will end up just like the woman in the story, wandering the earth for eternity, like Cain. Yossi then gives her a fake ruby, which she immediately recognizes and rejects. Perhaps the jewel symbolizes her soul, what makes her complete, and she won?t accept a fraud, something in place of the real thing, even at that young age.
The film goes forward a number of years, to when Sonia and her husband Mendel have just had their first child. Mendel is the perfect example of the devout Hasidic Jew. He is a scholar, and respected by everyone in the community. The Hasidic Jews believe that wisdom, not folly, and the studying of God?s word, knowledge, is the way to happiness and to God. " Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver, yields better return than gold. She is more precious than rubies. " Proverbs 3:13-15. They also believe that to fear God is the way to wisdom and understanding and a better spiritual life. " He who heeds discipline shows the way of life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray." 10:17 and " The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge but the morally deficient despise wisdom and discipline." 1:7. These thoughts, or beliefs dictate every aspect of the Jewish life. From the very beginning we can see Sonia feels choked by such a ridged lifestyle. As Sonia and her husband make love, and Sonia starts to enjoy herself, Mendel says " That?s enough Sonia! I?m supposed to be thinking exalted thoughts. Sex is a holy act, sanctified." To which she replies " I?m supposed to enjoy myself knowing you?re up there thinking about Abraham and Isaac and the Rebbe?" She can?t even quench the fire, the passion she has inside of her by enjoying marital sex with her husband.
After this scene, a dinner party takes place in which Mendel?s brother Sender, asks her if she has lead a good spiritual life. She hesitates and doesn?t answer. She has already begun to have serious doubts about her faith When Sender offers her a job though, she has a panic attack. Her sister in law Rachael suggests she get some help.The next scene is in the Rebbe?s office, where she tells him about her problem. " There is a fire inside of me. It used to keep me warm, but it?s getting hotter, it makes my stomach burn, and my nerves, and my skin. It?s too hot. Everything is too hot. Every touch burns me. I have no soul."
The Rebbe replies " God gave everyone a soul."
" Maybe, but if I do, was it God who gave it to me?." Sonia is questioning whether her desire comes naturally from God, or from the devil. There is a void inside of her and she is trying to find out how to fill it. It relates to the story of the woman who was a demon?s daughter, the devil gave her her soul.
Sender is the only person that offers a solution to her confining life. She can work for him and have freedom, but he makes it brutally clear that the price she will pay will be becoming his mistress. Sonia mentions to Sender that his business is illegal, which is a sin, to which he replies, " it is the quality of our sin that sets us apart." She then has sex with him and seals the offer by taking the brooch he gives her which has a fake jewel in the centre. Sonia has allowed a cheap substitute to fill the void she has inside of her.
For a while, this substitute works. The nervous hysteria is replaced with complete confidence as she buys and sells jewelry to Senders customers. At home Mendel asks her what she wants. She replies " I just want something beautiful."
Mendel " Goodness is beauty."
Sonia " No, goodness can contain beauty, but it can also be terrible."
Sonia is talking about the ridged lifestyle and the fear of God that makes the goodness Mendel is talking about, terrible. Sonia then asks him " Do you love me more than God?"
Mendel " That?s a terrible thing to ask Sonia." Sonia doesn?t want God to come in the way of her passion and her desire. Sonia has rejected the Jewish faith because the Torah teaches us to put God above all things.
Mendel recommends they go to see a councilor. Sonia is furious when she finds out the councilor is really a Rabbi. She looks at Mendel in disbelief, " He?s on your side".
Overhearing this, the Rabbi replies, " you can?t choose side with God" and she retorts, " I?m gonna choose which ever side I want and if God happens to be on the other side, then so be it." Again, Sonia is rebelling against what the Jewish community thinks she should be doing. Mendel, horrified at what Sonia is saying asks her " Don?t you fear God?" Quietly she replies, " I?m tired of being afraid. We don?t suffer because we ask for it." The Rabbi pushes in and says " we bring suffering upon ourselves when we sin against God." Almost hysterical, Sonia asks him why her relatives and the Jews in the second world war suffered, when they didn?t deserve it. The only way the Rabbi can answer is to say, " Don?t question Mrs. Horowitz." She defiantly replies " I?m going to question whatever I want." Sonia has got to a point in her search where she realizes she is searching. From here on in the film, Sonia is more focused in finding herself.
Sonia is now so strong willed that even her husband can?t stop her. When Sender tells the community she is having an affair with Ramon, she is forced to leave the Jewish community, like the women in the story. Forced to stay in a spare apartment of Sender?s, she comments on what his wife would say is she knew what transactions went on in this room. Sender retorts back with, " I have given you exactly what you want."
Sonia, " and what is that?"
Sender, " Freedom."
Sonia, " and am I free of you, Sender?"
Sender, " Freedom always comes with a price."
Although Sonia has gained some control in her life, just enough to keep the fire from bursting out inside of her, there is still a price she has to pay.
Sonia, " What is that?"
Sender, " A price above your virtue, but a price far below rubies."
Sender is telling her a good wife is worth far more than rubies, but she is worth far less than that, according to the Torah. He is making her seem like trash that he has complete control over.
Sonia, " I?m not paying anymore."
Sonia realizes that it really was just a substitute and she goes out alone to really find what she was looking for. All alone on the street, she bumps into an old lady that she has seen everywhere for the past few weeks. Sonia asks her who she is. " I?m just an old lady who has been too long on tired feet."
Sonia, "You?ve been following me."
Old woman, "who?s been following who?"
Sonia realizes that this old woman represents, or is, the old woman in the story Yossi told her. Sonia has been following in her footsteps and leaving the Jewish community. Sonia ends up at Ramon?s house, which is covered in religious pictures and ornaments, even an alter, distinctly showing Christ on the cross, a God that died for our sins, a loving God, who doesn?t punish. Maybe Sonia is attracted to this idea and has come to seek refuge. Ramon sees the state she is in and forces to see who she really is. Ripping off her jewelry he says, " They are trinkets. Look at yourself, hidden inside. Look at you." Overwhelmed, Sonia looks at herself in the mirror. confronted by what she really is, overwhelmed she breaks down into tears and leans an Ramon for support. I believe that Sonia has been forced to look at who she really is and not let people or material things influence her. In doing this, she realizes she has found herself. Ramon shows her that her inner beauty is what counts, not material things like jewelry.
As Sonia wakes from spending the night with Ramon, she sees Yossi, dripping wet standing beside her. He says, " I swam" and she replies, "so have I." The swim here represents the struggle to realize herself and find the true meaning of her soul. When she replied, "so have I.", it showed that she had overcome her struggle and finally found herself, individualism. The search had ended, yet there was still something missing.
Sonia Marches over to the Rebbe?s house in the next scene, demanding to see his widow. Initially, she is refused because her blouse is unbuttoned and her hair everywhere. The Rebitsen allows her to see her. Sonia asks the Rebitsen why she whispered, "thankyou", when her husband had died. She says, " Your words rekindled a fire." Sonia?s passion had inspired the very old Rebbe to give his wife one night where he wasn?t thinking about God and only about her. His last words to her were " I love you." It is very ironic that he died giving his wife pleasure in which she was so grateful. Sonia doesn?t want to wait to have this fire rekindled, she doesn?t want to lose it in the first place and she says " I don?t belong here. I paid a heavy price for it. I?m leaving my child here. "Sonia has realized that to find out that she doesn?t belong in the Jewish community she paid a terrible price, she lost her son. Sonia then asks her is she could get something of ?hers? back. Sonia goes with four Jewish scholars down to Senders basement and confronts him. He is forced to give the ring that she had in the safe back. As he walks past she says to him, " Now I?m free." Sonia has paid the price, but now she is free. She got herself back from Sender when she got the ring back, the ring symbolizing her body, which Sender had previously had control over.
Mendel finds her and gives her a ruby, a real one this time, and tells her to come and visit her son. He has accepted that Sonia was who she was and he couldn?t change her. This is where the movie ends. The epilogue shows the ruby being put into the ring. The ruby, her soul, had been united with the ring, her body, and now it was complete. She had finally found what she was looking for. The ring came from Ramon, who represents the outside world, what she was so desperately trying to get to, to find herself, and the ruby came from Mendel, who represents what she was trying to escape, but it had to come from Mendel because that was still a part of her and she needed to know she was all right with that. She needed closure on that part of her life and come to terms with her religion. Mendel is freeing Sonia to be herself, he no longer owns her, Mendel representing the Jewish community.
Sonia knew that she had to take a step into the outside world- no matter what the cost. Although along the way, she found the key to who she was, her identity, she paid a price so high it nearly ruined her. She let false substitutes replace what should really have been there but she finds it in the end.