After their son is killed during military service for the Israel Defense Force, the Feldmann’s try and come to term with their grief. Interspersed is Jonathan’s time on a barren checkpoint at the Palestine border.
‘Foxtrot’ is an incredibly deep and substantial film, over its running time it fits in more metaphors and themes than could possibly be comprehended in one viewing. The director Samuel Maoz paints a rich absurdist painting of life in Israel. He is also deftly even-handed with his subject matter.
The first part of the films deals with Michael (Lior Ashkenazi) trying to come to term with his son's death, his wife in bed sedated by the soldiers that have brought the terrible news. Lior has such an earthy screen presence he is entirely captivating. One shot early on is a continuous take that is purely focused on his face as the soldiers keep reiterating the importance of drinking water when dealing with grief. These early scenes really help draw you in.
Split into three acts, the second section which is set at the outpost is really where the film shines the most. It works with its own humorous internal logic and I was sad to see the section end. I would have happily watched this get spun out further. Each vehicle they stop tells its own little story and gives it a real rooting in its reality. The drivers say very little, but we glean so much from their attitudes, their dress, facial expressions and so on. Nothing is ever explained, you just have to pick it up for yourself and this leads you further into the film's world. The dancing puts a star on the film alone.
The pacing is also wild - scenes can change their tone hastily and it really serves to keep you gripped. Everyone on screen feels like a fully fleshed out being and there is little time spent trying to make you like them, it just assumes you’ll feel empathetic and gets on with it. This means it fits in some quite complex character development in under two hours.
The camera work is fantastic, the film mostly takes over two locations and although they are worlds apart, literally and metaphorically there is an overbearing sense of claustrophobia in both. The camera swoops around in every conceivable angle but it never seems flashy, it’s always restrained and helps you see harder into the mindset of the characters.
Tonally it is bittersweet, its message: life is short, stupid, brutish, inane and hilarious. Bubbling underneath the surface there is a very articulate and damming portrayal of the Israel - Palestine conflict. Despite living in opulence, the Feldmann’s constantly find themselves under siege. And all characters show strange behaviour of people that have been in a war mentality for so long they no longer act in rational ways.
Like all good absurdist fiction, it really hits home a lot of truths. It is a very honest and earnest film but never takes itself too seriously which is always a present danger on these types of endeavours. For me, 'Foxtrot' is a pure work of genius and really should be getting more attention than it is.