Foxtrot - review
by Wesley Kirkpatrick
Directed by Israeli filmmaker Samuel Maoz, Foxtrot is finally getting a UK release despite initially winning the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival back in 2017. Gorging with experimental camerawork and stunning landscapes, Foxtrot deserves performances of equal grandeur, which the main actors provide in abundance to the audience’s delight. Maoz’s second feature-long film tells the tale of an Israeli couple comprising of Michael (Lior Ashkenazi) and Daphna Feldmann (Sarah Adler), who are dealt painful news about their son Jonathan (Yonaton Shiray). The latter is serving in the Israeli army, in a remote checkpoint in the middle of nowhere. It is impossible to explain the plot further without providing spoilers as the film takes several plot twists leaving the spectator in a state of confusion similar to that experienced by the story’s protagonists.
If the spectator were to watch this without understanding Hebrew, and without the help of subtitles, he/she would still greatly appreciate it simply from its stunning camerawork. Long close-up shots of Michael’s face vividly capture his pain and anxiety. Added to this are prolonged birds eye shots which capture entire rooms in which he stands, providing a sense of claustrophobia within the audience who end up going through the same emotional rollercoaster as the characters themselves. Along with this incredible camerawork come mesmerising panoramic shots and landscapes which will leave the viewer in awe.
The film is split up into three acts with each act focusing on the characters' entrapment in the cards which are dealt to them - the dealer is represented by the military intermediary for the Israeli Government. With reference to the current political climate, Maoz’s latest work implies that heartbreak will befall upon the Israeli populace one way or another by engaging in such a futile conflict. This is reflected in Foxtrot’s clear anti-war stance. It is interesting to note that Samuel Maoz himself served in the Israeli army during the 1982 Lebanon War - he therefore experienced the atrocities of war first hand. His work has received criticism, mainly in Israel, for its portrayal of the Israeli army and its morals, to which Maoz responded “If I criticise the place I live, I do it because I worry. I do it because I want to protect it. I do it from love.”.
“There’s no such thing as an anti-war film” are words which can be attributed to French filmmaker François Truffaut. It is widely agreed that what is meant by these words is that even films which aim at criticising war do so by glorifying conflict. Whether it be through the camaraderie of soldiers, such as in Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory, or through the heroics of a central character, such as in Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge. Foxtrot however, adopts a distinct approach by looking at the ways in which notions of loss and grief are affecting the lives of these soldiers' families. It is an anti-war film deeply rooted in personal loss as such.