It’s con­tro­ver­sial… But is it any good?

Film critic Stephen Ap­ple­baum of­fers his ver­dict on Sa­muel Maoz’s award-win­ner

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS -

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.

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