This review was originally published as part of our Venice Film Festival coverage on 03/09/2017.
In 2009, Israeli writer-director and former tank gunner Samuel Maoz blew away the competition at the Venice Film Festival with his searing, Golden Lion-winning debut, Lebanon. Eight years on, Maoz returns to the festival with his second feature, Foxtrot, a multi-genre masterpiece that immediately enters the canon of the truly great war films.
Opening on a couple, Michael and Dafna Feldman (Lior Ashkenazi and Sarah Adler), being informed their son has been killed in action on the Israeli border, the first third of Foxtrot is a savagely difficult and distressing watch. The parents’ grief screams out as violent as any firefight, heart-stoppingly tragic, acted to perfection by Ashkenazi and Adler. Knockout sound design and cinematography dizzies you, and the official military order that the army’s funeral messenger tries to impose on proceedings are almost comedic in their unhelpfulness.
And then, at the end of act one, we move on to an IDF squadron guarding a desolate roadblock, and the mood switches to uproariously funny farce. These two polar-opposite tones should not exist in the same movie, but in a single scene which we won’t spoil here, Maoz unites the two ends of the emotional spectrum with jaw-dropping skill. Mind-numbing boredom has clearly been the status quo for a long while at the roadblock, and the soldiers’ attempts to alleviate this dreariness are hilarious.
Maoz’s writing is matched every step of the way by his direction, and Foxtrot is a properly visionary work. Once we leave the Feldmans, the colour palette changes drastically to bright, rich colours and unsparing realism gives way to surreal imagery.
So many elements of Foxtrot are seemingly irreconcilably disparate from each other, but everything is woven together with impeccable care and consideration in this unbelievably gripping story of the emotional impact of war.
CAST: Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler, Dekel Adin, Yehuda Almagor
DIRECTOR: Samuel Maoz
WRITER: Samuel Maoz
SYNOPSIS: A troubled family face the facts when something goes terribly wrong at their son’s desolate military post.