It’s controversial… But is it any good?
Film critic Stephen Applebaum offers his verdict on Samuel Maoz’s award-winner
FOXTROT’S DIRECTOR Samuel Maoz is himself a former soldier and has already tasted success as a film-maker after drawing on his experiences on the front line. Maoz’s Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize in Venice this year follows his Golden Lion win in 2009 for his debut feature, Lebanon. But the two films are formally and tonally very different.
For the earlier film, Maoz recalled his days as part of a tank crew in the 1982 Lebanon war, an involvement that changed his life when he blew up a truck and killed the people inside.
The action of the film took place entirely within the claustrophobic confines of a tank during the heat of war, but he broadens his gaze for Foxtrot and focuses on the middle-class parents of an IDF soldier, who are told their son has been killed.
Just as they are starting to process their shock, anger and sorrow, the couple are given news that changes everything. The father, played by Ashkenazi Lior, demands that his boy be brought home immediately, which has its own consequences in the film’s reflective and confessional final portion.
The film is divided into three sections of unequal length and,in between the two set in a city apartment, we head to the battlefield to meet the son (Yonatan Shiray) and three other soldiers, who have been assigned to man a desert checkpoint.
Maoz paints this section like a surreal dream, in which boredom is occasionally punctuated by a camel, and the odd car. Ennui leads to petty abuses; fear births tragedy.
Trauma, created by war and the legacy of the Holocaust, courses through the film. In addition to the personal fallout, there is a suggestion (although there’s plenty of room for interpretation) that Israeli society is also stuck in a place from which it cannot move on.
The film requires patience of its audience and won’t be to everyone’s taste.
But Foxtrot is audacious and masterful film-making, from a director who speaks from experience.