A worn couch is the inanimate star of Divan, but the heart of this delightfully personal documentary is filmmaker Pearl Gluck’s affectionate arm’s-length attachment to her Hasidic family. Having broken with the traditions of her Orthodox Jewish clan – she’s single at the age of 30 and secular in the city – Gluck nevertheless has effected a creative way to be-yet-not-be a keeper of the traditions: She takes it upon herself to retrieve a turn-of-the-century family divan languishing in Hungary – upon which, the story goes, a number of revered rabbis once slept – and keeps a video diary of her quest.
”Divan” intersperses Gluck’s journey to liberate the furniture – a pilgrim’s progress as cockeyed as any classic folktale – with interviews and commentary. In addition to hearing from the philosophers, noodges, and would-be matchmakers who manage to love her while wishing she were someone else, Gluck listens to the stories of other men and women who have left Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Judaism and whose lives are shaped by rift and realignment, with none of the wailing and teeth-gnashing that wore down ”Trembling Before G-d”. The serious struggle in this lilting doc is told with an inviting light touch and a big heart.