Michael Feldman is a middle-aged architect married to Daphna and living in Tel Aviv. They are a creative couple, superficially in a stable successful relationship. Their lives are suddenly blown apart by the shocking news of the death of their son Jonathon, a soldier on active service. Using his skill as a visual artist to enhance the urgency of the story, director Samuel Maoz switches the developing action between two locations.
Dir: Samuel Maoz, Israel, 113 Minutes, 2017.
One of the locations featured is Jonathon’s posting as a member of a four-man patrol tasked with operating a checkpoint barrier in harsh and forbidding territory, where they relieve their stress and boredom in inventive ways including dancing to loudly amplified music, including the foxtrot, which Johnathon performs as a bravura solo. The other part deals with his parents’ response to the catastrophic news they have been given. Long held assumptions are torn apart and fresh developments bring further emotional trauma.
The two narratives are orchestrated by the use of superb cinematography combined with music, dance and striking visuals. The importance of the foxtrot dance, which Michael also enjoys, becomes clearer.
Controversial on its release in Israel, the film nevertheless speaks to cultures and people the world over – it is both specific and universal at the same time.
I thought the initial 20-30mins were rather overdone. It was unnecessary to portray Michael’s grief for so long and it made me feel like giving up on the film. I’m glad I didn’t though, because the rest of the film produced some very vivid scenes and some tremendous photography. The scenes at the check-point were very evocative.
I understood the technical skills involved but overall I found the film indulgent and depressing, with an absence of likeable characters – or any moment to savour.
Despite its Israeli-centred point of view, the film was shot with great style. I thought Michael totally dislikeable and indeed there seemed to be a pervasive sense of entitlement from him and the older members of his family that was hard to take. The scenes at the barrier were brilliant, using surrealistic images to re-inforce the boredom, stress and fear of the young squaddies. A film to remember!
A controversial film that addressed all kinds of issues, from its political background to the theme of going round in a circle like the foxtrot dance. It had gorgeous cinematography, creative sound design and good performances. A great film but not for everyone.
The opening section of the film, with its harrowing portrayal of the mind-destroying power of terrible grief, set the tone for this troubling but astute study of the effect of random chance on the lives of an otherwise comfortable, middle class family. Throughout the film, director Maoz made telling points about the over-militarised state of Israel. The portrayal of the conscripts’ life at the checkpoint was particularly insightful – 99% boredom, 1% random, fear-induced violence. A film from the heart.