Venice 2017: Samuel Maoz's 'Foxtrot' is a Brilliant Tale of Life in Israel
by Alex Billington
September 9, 2017
Oh my goodness, this film is brilliant. You won't be ready for this when it hits you, no matter how prepared you think you may be. Foxtrot is the new film from Israeli director Samuel Maoz (of Lebanon previously) and clearly confirms that he's a master filmmaker who has so much to show us. Foxtrot is both the story of a family, and the story of a soldier. It's distinctly an Israeli film, criticizing not only the society and culture of the country, but especially their military and the idea that they're supposedly doing good. I had heard great things before, but I was still completely floored by this film when I saw at the Venice Film Festival. It's the kind of perfect film that leaves you speechless at the end, you don't even know what to say other than "wow."
Of the many brilliant aspects of Foxtrot, the dual narrative is one of the most compelling and impressive. The film starts immediately with a family being told that their son, a young solider in the Israeli military, was killed on duty. They're distraught, and they go totally insane, despite everyone's attempts to calm and console them. Lior Ashkenazi stars as the father, and Sarah Adler as the mother. Then suddenly they learn some different news - maybe he's actually alive. This is when the film switches to the son's story, telling us about his dreary life at a remote outpost, where he and three other young soldiers do nothing all day but sit by big guns and watch camels walk by. As we watch both sides, the two begin to intertwine and eventually everything starts to make more sense. Maoz is careful to only reveal more as the story plays out.
The way Maoz handles this narrative structure is brilliant, allowing the audience to experience the story differently than the characters, and yet giving us the chance to make the revelations. In addition to the plot structure itself, everything else about Foxtrot is pretty much mind-blowingly perfect. The cinematography by Giora Bejach is some of the best you'll see all year, with elegant shots from all angles. The sound design is powerful, and enhances the storytelling in very dramatic ways. The performances are all so genuine and heartrending, and they make it even more believable. There's a lovely score by Ophir Leibovitch & Amit Poznansky which pushes the emotions further. Every last little detail about this film is superb, showing that Maoz not only knows what he's doing, but he has a knack for attention-to-detail as a storytelling aspect.
It's honestly hard for me to describe exactly what makes this film so amazing, it begins with the way each and every scene is structured perfectly, from the set design to the cinematography to the sound and the performances. Beyond that, the most I can say is to please go in and experience this film for yourself. When you finally get to the end and (after picking up your jaw from the floor) figure out everything about it, you'll be so overwhelmed with emotions it'll be hard not to call your friends and exclaim "this film!" This is what great filmmaking can achieve, and it's the kind of brilliant film that will stick with you for days or weeks or months after, haunting you with its shots that you can't get out of your mind. Foxtrot is an exceptional film.
Alex's Venice 2017 Rating: 10 out of 10
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