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FOXTROT gets 8.5/10 Danse Macabre

Directed by Samuel Maoz
Starring Lior Ashkenazi, Yonaton Shiray, Sarah Adler

8.5/10

The director of the Venice Golden Lion winning Lebanon once again turns his attention towards the Israeli Military with Foxtrot (which in turn earned him a Silver Lion). This time Samuel Maoz steps outside the tank to give us a view of the families caught up in the military bureaucracy, as well as the lives of the young men performing their national service.

A dreaded knock on the door by three military personnel, signifies to the Feldman family that something has gone horribly wrong at their son’s remote military post. Numbed by the news of his son’s (Yonaton Shiray) death, Michael (Lior Ashkenazi) struggles to deal with his grief, while becoming increasingly frustrated by the regimented method the Army uses to comfort the family. However he soon begins to suspect that something more is amiss, despite his wife’s (Sarah Adler) insistence that it is just coming from a place of sorrow.

Foxtrot is a series of three interlinked vignettes (four if you count a short animated sequence that acts as a bridging point between the last two pieces) creating a larger and more poignant story of a family caught up in the cogs of Israeli National Service. The first two pieces are really the theatre of the absurd, while the final is more a character drama conveying the aftermath of loss on the family.

Both the opening and second piece deal with the absurdity of the military. The first being that of the bureaucracy, and the codified process the army employs when dealing with death, butting up against the genuine grief and loss of the family. The second is the regimented boredom of soldiery, punctuated by moments of extreme stress (playing out like some odd hybrid between M.A.S.H and Dark Star).

Both of these two pieces are immaculately filmed, with a tremendous amount of care being placed into shot composition. The earlier is displayed against a background of geometric pattern, re-enforced by the art and design of the apartment it is set in -that highly organised life, thrown into disarray by the news. By contrast the checkpoint sequence often emphasises the open location, creating a sense of vulnerability, but also an odd beauty to the desert location. Here the interior shots are always chaotic, as the prefab base the troops are in threatens to sink into the mud. Finally the third piece, brakes all the cinematic language that the first two vignettes have established, and throws the camera directly into the personal space of the actors – all close ups and mid-shots, set against an apartment that is now as chaotic as the lives of those within it. There is a rawness to this segment, that is perhaps underplayed by the previous acts. We as an audience have been led to this, and it is indicative of the care and craft placed at every layer of this film.

And there are a lot of layers here. Conceived as a classic Greek tragedy, Maoz creates a piece which touches upon a plethora of issues; from the political of the relationships between Israel and Palestine, to the personal relationship between parent and child, and a heck of a lot in between. The result is breath taking in it’s shifting scale and ability to deliver a whiplash change in emotional tone.

Immaculately conceived and executed Foxtrot is exceptional cinema.

DAVID O’CONNELL

Foxtrot plays at UWA Somerville from Monday, March 5 to Sunday, March 11, and at ECU Joondalup Pines from Tuesday, March 13 to Sunday, March 18.

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