The basic rhythm of the foxtrot is slow slow quick quick. Stepping side to side, one always ends up at the same starting point. The same holds true for Samuel Maoz’s compelling film, Foxtrot. The director gives the illusion of movement but we end up at the beginning. We return to the opening scene, an official visit of the Israeli Defense Force giving the news that no parent of a son in the field of combat wants to receive.
The movie’s three-part structure is articulated by long glacial movements. Grandiose camera angles are interlaced with sharp witticisms, absurdist happenings and probing and philosophical dialogue. Divided between a modern high-rise apartment in Tel Aviv and the arid Israeli desert at a control stop, the characters in Foxtrot are continually dwarfed either by the grand architecture or the sprawling barren landscape. It is a predominantly quiet film. Long silent stretches are articulated by the symphonic score elevating the quotidian life. It is in that framework that Maoz portrays the missing son, Jonathon (Yonaton Shiray). He sleeps day in and day out in a shipping container that slowly but assuredly sinks with each passing day.
Foxtrot is off-kilter (literally with cinematographer Giora Bejach’s reappearing Dutch angle shots) and absurd while simultaneously grief-fuelled and tragic. Maoz makes it clear that emotions cannot be felt in a vacuum nor life’s experiences compartmentalised. The film leans into the space between drama. There are no scenes of combat but long stretches of waiting. Somewhere in the middle, Foxtrot captures human suffering, most elegantly performed by Lior Ashkenazi and Sarah Adler as the grieving couple.
The director set himself a tall task to unveil an intimate portrait of loss against the convoluted backdrop of war. In each, the pervasiveness of human error seems to reign. Foxtrot is constantly straddling opposing forces: game and war, humour and tragedy, life and death. Maoz makes it clear that life can be two things at once just as the word foxtrot can bring to mind the coded militarist language and shuffling feet on a ballroom floor.
Foxtrot is released in select cinemas and on demand on 1st March 2019.
Watch the trailer for Foxtrot here: