When Daphna Feldman (Sarah Adler) opens the door of her apartment, she understands and faints. From the living room her husband, Michael Feldman (Lior Ashkenazi), watch as soldiers from the Israeli defence forces (IDF) come in the apartment, sedate his wife and carry her to bed. They have bad news for them: their son Jonathan was “killed in action”. The soldiers are quick to instruct Michael that he has to remain calm. They give him some pills. They tell him that he has to drink water. One of the soldier even sets up an alert on Michael’s phone to remind him when he should drink water. But during the day Michael goes crazy. No amount of water is going to change that. He calls his brother, tries to reach his daughter, kicks the family dog, visits his mother at the retirement home to tell her the news, but he’s not sure if she even knows who he is. Foxtrot, a near perfect film from Israel, has a three-part structure, playing around with time and space. At the end of the first segment, the soldier come back with another devastating news. In the second segment, we find Jonathan (Yonatan Shiray) with three other soldiers manning a roadblock situated to the north of Israel. This is boring work. There are some cars passing on the road, but most of the time they raise the barrier for camels. Their conditions are terrible: They sleep in a container that seem to be slowly sinking into the ground. To get there they have to cross a pond of muddy water. And they eat food directly from boiled cans. There’s a great moment at the beginning of this second segment where Jonathan shows his fellow soldiers how you dance a Foxtrot. But a tragedy comes to disrupt their quiet life. In the third segment we are back at the Feldman apartment. It’s a year later and the house is in disarray, with Michael and Daphna’s marriage almost on the brink of divorce. Foxtrot has been controversial in Israel, mostly for the less than stellar depiction of the Israeli defence forces. If I love that film so much it’s not only because of the structured screenplay. It’s Samuel Maoz’s visually compelling direction. The unusual angles, overhead shots, the close up. Every beautiful shots contribute to the story and create a tension of its own. This is the most fun I had at the movies in a long time. During the first segment Lior Ashkenazi gives a tense, fierce and hysterical performance. So far this is my favorite film this year.
Plays at Ottawa’s ByTowne Cinema from April 13 – 19
In Hebrew with English subtitles.