Representing Conflict

Ten years ago, the former Israeli tank-gunner Samuel Maoz made an enormous impact with his debut film, Lebanon. Set entirely in the claustrophobic confines of a tank, during the First Lebanon War of 1982, it rightly drew comparisons to classic submarine yarn Das Boot. His second film, Foxtrot, deserves equal attention. It may have escaped the metal innards of a hulking war machine, but it’s no less nausea-inducing, as it stares at the horrors of conflict without flinching. 

Separated into three distinct parts, we begin at the Feldman household, where Michael (Lior Ashkenazi), an architect, and his younger wife Dafna (Sarah Adler) receive some life-changing news: their son Jonathan has been killed in the line of duty. Hysteria ensues, Dafna has to be sedated and Michael locks himself in the bathroom as anguish takes over his entire being. But there’s more to this story than first appears; Joseph Heller’ seminal anti-war novel Catch-22is brought to mind. 

Some three-quarters-of-an-hour in, Maoz then cuts to a remote border post in the desert where we find four soldiers – including the aforementioned Jonathan (Yonatan Shiray) – very much alive. Is it him or another Jonathan Feldman? Here, with so few passers-by to contend with bar the odd lonesome camel, they fight not with the enemy but to stave off boredom. At one point, Jonathan dances with his weapon in an effort to keep entertained. He tells stories and even draws cartoons, as we gradually get to know him. 

The final segment returns us to the Feldman apartment in a segment that will knit the stories together, for those with enough patience to stick with a sometimes befuddling and often surreal story. Shot by Giora Bejach, who adds to the film’s oddness with a sickly palette of greens and browns, it revels in curious details – like the very fact the solders’ trailer is not plum horizontal, allowing them to roll tin cans from one end to the other. Digging deep into the absurdity and anguish that war creates, Maoz delivers yet another must-see – a film filled with the cries of those from his homeland. 

Foxtrotopens on 1 March. For more details, visit: Find out more here: