If you mix religious rituals with dark mythology, the result will be effective, and the story powerful in 90% of the cases. That is exactly what happens at the beginning of Keith Thomas
’ feature film debut The Vigil
(2019). The director, awarded in Toronto, SXSW, and Sitges film festivals, succeeds in telling the story of a young Jewish man called Yakov (Dave Davis
) who is struggling with his orthodox Judaism faith, but because he is in need of money, he decides to accept a job as a shomer
(Jewish practice in which a person must keep vigil beside a community’s member corpse). The analysis of this kind of traditional community is always interesting, also recently good depicted in German miniseries Unorthodox
When Yakov first enters the house, bad vibrations are all around the place. From the start, all the set is perfectly done in order to transmit the viewer the characteristic darkness of any mourning ritual. Rubin Litvak’s (Ronald Cohen) dead body is in the center of the living room, covered with a white blanket; beside it, Rubin’s wife (Lynn Cohen) who has Alzheimer's, which will be fundamental in depicting some obscure scenes that will take place during that night.
As the time goes by, Yakov is shown as a young, insecure, vulnerable man who has just decided to step out of the traditional Jewish community he belonged to, due to shocking acts that happened to him in the past... acts that we gradually start to discover. From that moment until the end of the film, the dichotomy between whether to believe or not to believe, in other words: faith and denial, will always be present. In this way, actor Dave Davis plays a fundamental part in depicting the character’s struggles with a brilliant performance.
Even though the atmosphere is already created, the darkness is invading the place, and the myth of the Mazzikim (an invisible, dangerous demon which can disturb anyone in their daily life) is introduced, which is a very good point considering that traditionally, what movies shows us about Jewish mythology is focused on the Golem creature, like in the German classic movie