FOXTROT, a tragedy-war – Review

Eight years after Lebanon, Samuel Maoz returns with his second feature film, FOXTROT, drama-war winner of the silver lion at the Venice film Festival in 2017.

Michael and Dafna receive the visit of members of the military who announce the death of their son, Yonatan, party, perform his military service on a frontier post. While Lebanon we spoke of the shock of the war, nurtured by his experience in the military during the Lebanon war, Samuel Maoz speaks to us here of the shock of the post-war period. And if his first film is focused on the individual, this last feature film broadens its spectrum to observe israeli society through a look without concession.

FOXTROT is built on a narrative structure in three acts, in the manner of a Greek tragedy, each centered on a character : Michael (Lior Ashkenazi), Yonatan (Yonatan Shiray) and Dafna (Sarah Adler). The three sequences, each have their unity of place, reminding us, once again, a scenography of theatre. The use of the camera becomes an essential component of the cinema of Samuel Maoz creates a semantic relationship between space and character. Michael and Dafna are locked in their apartment and Yonatan is stuck in the middle of the desert, on its border post. The plot revolves around the protagonists who move inexorably towards their fate. The film opens with a shot of a subjective view, inside a car, which moves along a desert road which one does not see the end. This is a recurring pattern supposed to remember this walk’s unchanging destiny of which can be distinguished never the purposes.This metaphor returns several times during the film, on the paintings hanging on the walls of the apartment or in the sequence of the hospice where Michael walks in hallways at the prospect infinite. The latent threat is lurking in the shadow of dolly, but also in the stretching of the duration of the plans. The concept of tragedy is reflected in the staging, with those slow movements of camera shot in an extreme dive recalling the presence of a Deus Ex Machina, the fate who contemplates his pawns. Samuel Maoz quotes gladly Einstein when he said that ” chance is the pseudonym that takes God when he wants to go incognito.

The first sequence installs a rhythm alangui imposed by the sense of amazement of the character. The plans are set on Michael, and their duration stretches up to create a feeling of discomfort conducive to the emergence of the fine touches of comedy. Therefore, a sense of humor, almost surreal pervades the film from weighting the drama of the situation. FOXTROT oscillates between tragedy and comedy in a balance carefully orchestrated. The comic allows you to defuse a certain heaviness while digging the complexity of emotions. Nothing is ever one-sided, everything is both sad and funny, and the laughter may leave the place crying within the same plan. Samuel Maoz plays on an experience of the duration to sometimes let the emotion unfold, sometimes letting the comedy emerge.

This duality, or rather this complementarity, a tragi-comedy is expressed in the stage that alternates between static shots and long camera movements, counterpoints the humanist allegory of the tragic destiny. Breathe life by silences, this is the ambition of the director that manages to create a true non-verbal communication. Some scenes are totally silent yet achieve we convey complex ideas, sometimes ambivalent, with the sheer force of a staged millimétrée. A silent language, moved through the games looks, the length-controlled plans, and an infallible science of the counter-field. The fixed plans are never frozen, the director knows how to reinvent ourselves constantly by creating a surfeit of comic effects close sometimes the lesson of burlesque.All of these tools of film are used with finesse a speech critical of israeli society. Because through FOXTROT, Samuel Maoz talks about the notions of inheritance and transmission. First of all, the weight of the Holocaust bearing down on the film, the author observed the way in which this trauma original conditions of the individuals. Each generation inherits from this injury that it assimilates and then passes to the next generation. With memory, are also the anxieties that spread through the collective unconscious. Samuel Maoz door a good, hard look at the military occupation, which, according to him, is rooted in the idea of a permanent threat, resting on the shoulders of a youth inexperienced all the suffering of people injured. The israeli director breaks down a mechanism insidious and can lead to explosive situations that raise questions about moral and ethics.

FOXTROT describes this strange cyclical movement in which the israeli society seems to be trapped.

The three generations bear in themselves the marks of their wars respective. For the first, one of the founders of the State, it is the holocaust ; for the second, that of Michael there are the memories of the Lebanon war, and for the third, that of Yonatan, it is this invisible war against an enemy that does not exist. The sequence of the border crossing is staged in a surrealist aesthetic, with these members who are desperately waiting in the middle of a no-man’s-land of the dream, stressing the absurdity of the situation in a table which is not without recalling the famous play of Beckett, waiting for Godot. The speech antimilitarist that door Samuel Maoz has provoked fierce controversy in Israel, where the minister of culture has not hesitated to call the film “unbecoming,” claiming that it gave a bad image of the army. A tension that reveals the importance of the questions raised by Samuel Maoz : What does it mean to be israeli today ? How to wear the legacy of the Holocaust ? What future to give to the new generations ?

FOXTROT describes this strange cyclical movement in which the israeli society seems to be trapped. A perpetual back to the trauma founder, who plunges with each new generation in an injunction sacrificial.

Aurélien Milhaud

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FOXTROT, a tragedy of war – Critical
Original title : Foxtrot

Production : Samuel Maoz

Screenplay : Samuel Maoz

Main actors : Lior Ashkénazi, Sarah Adler, Yonatan Shiray

Release Date : April 25, 2018

Duration : 1h53min

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