Israelian director, Samuel Maoz’s drama, Foxtrot (2017) documents, in three segments, the malaise of present-day Israel. In the first sequence, a middle-aged married couple are visited by soldiers who deliver the news that their son, Jonathan, has been killed in action. The second, or ‘middle’ section, brings us to a remote checkpoint in the desert where jaded soldiers pass the time, sharing stories, listening to music and, as the title suggests, dancing. (The trailer for the film features the cleverly incongruous scene from the film in which a soldier dances facetiously with his rifle in the absence of a dance partner).
The third and final sequence takes us back to Jonathan’s parents who are trying to make sense of their new lives. However, all is not what it seems, as lies and cover-ups bubble under the surface. Faintly reminiscent of Sam Mendes’ gulf-war drama, Jarhead (2005), Foxtrot picked up the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 2017 and represents a follow up to Lebanon: The Soldier’s Journey (2009) which followed a dispatched paratroopers platoon as they search a hostile town during the First Lebanon War of 1982.
This film is especially poignant as Tel Aviv-born director, Maoz, was himself, at the age of twenty, a gunner in one of the first Israeli tanks to enter Lebanon in that war. For Lebanon (2009), Maoz also won the Golden Lion in Venice that year, so you could say that he is on a directorial winning streak.
The themes of loss and grief reminded me readily of Spanish director, Carla Simón’s largely autobiographical film, Summer 1993 (2018). This is a moving picture about life through the eyes of six-year-old Frida as she attempts to navigate her ‘second life’ with her extended family following the unexplained death of her mother.
Following our original theme of conflict and its effects, I was reminded also of Simón’s compatriot, Victor Erice, and his film, The Spirit of The Beehive (1973) about a girl (Ana Torrent) who becomes obsessed with the film, Frankenstein (1931) after seeing it at her village cinema, and goes in search of the monster, fixating on the spectral presences of Spanish Civil War-era Spain. These films attest to the significance of memory, however painful it can be.
Photo by Marina Shemesh on needpix.com