Posts Tagged ‘“Foxtrot”’

Yonaton Shiray

“FOXTROT” My rating: B+

108 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The Israeli film “Foxtrot” already has earned the condemnation of that country’s military for depicting an army coverup of civilian Arab deaths.

As is often the case when the military mind attempts to wrap itself around art, the authorities fail to grasp what’s really at stake.

“Foxtrot” is nothing less than an artful, absurdist and on some levels frustrating dissection of life in a paramilitary state in which the average citizen can feel besieged.  Whether it plays fair in depicting the actions of the Israeli army is impossible to say.  But the film is riveting for the emotional no-man’s land it explores.

It comes by its anxiety honestly. “Foxtrot” was inspired by a moment from writer/director Samuel Maoz’s own life.  Two decades ago after a family spat Maoz ordered his teenage daughter to take a public bus instead of a cab to school. When the bus line was hit by a suicide bomber, the filmmaker spent several agonizing hours before learning his child was on a different bus and safe.

So deeply was Maoz moved by the incident that 20 years later it inspired this film.

(B.T.W.:  Maoz frequently draws his films from his own life. His 2010 feature “Lebanon” was based on his own service in the Israeli army during the 1982 Lebanon war, and was told entirely from the POV of a gunner in a tank — precisely Maoz’s duty.)

Essentially “Foxtrot” is a tale told in three 30-minute segments.

In the first a knock on the door is answered by a middle-aged woman, Daphna Feldmann (Sarah Adler), who takes one look at the army officers standing in the hallway and, instantly understanding that they bring terrible news, screams and falls in a dead faint. (Behind her is a large abstract drawing/painting that looks like some visual manifestation of chaos theory…it won’t be the first time Moaz employs carefully designed physical settings or eerie overhead shots to reveal the inner state of his characters.)

In the next room her husband Michael (Lior Ashkenazi) sits stunned as the soldiers give his fallen wife a shot of sedative and carry her off to the bedroom.  They inform Michael that the couple’s son Jonathan has died while serving his country. They advise him to stay hydrated; periodically he’ll be texted reminders to drink a glass of water. (Clearly, the army has distilled this awful duty down to a cool, unemotional routine.)

All this unfolds with the camera zeroed in on Michael’s features…we only hear the soldier’s voices.

Soon the befuddled, shattered Michael is joined by his brother Avigdor (Yehudi Almagro), who offers to contact their relations. A young rabbi serving as an army chaplain explains the details of Jonathan’s impending military funeral. It’s all very official and remote.  There’s also an uncomfortable visit to Michael’s imperious and borderline senile mother to deliver the  bad news.

Throughout all this Michael’s anguish mutates into anger.  He demands to see Jonathan’s body; the authorities want a closed casket, and Michael  accuses them of putting rocks in the coffin instead of a corpse.  (more…)


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