Samuel Maoz’s Award Winning film “Foxtrot” Is Memorable with Distinctive Filmmaking
By Liz Lopez
Director/writer Samuel Maoz (“Lebanon,” 2009) returned last year to creating a feature film, “Foxtrot,” that takes the viewer on so many emotional rides, it may leave someone breathless by the end. This drama from Israel won the Grand Jury Prize at last year’s Venice Film Festival, as well as won in many categories in other international film festivals. It was also featured at the Telluride Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival, and became one of nine shortlisted films for the foreign-language Oscar. Maoz has written an outstanding screenplay that is rolled out in three sections or “acts” as if it is a play. This method is very effective for telling the story about a family who goes through a very dark period of time that is universal and yet, there is some unexpected levity that spins the viewer’s emotions to an entirely different level.
From the opening scene, this drama kicks into high gear when Dafna (Sarah Adler) answers the door then suddenly faints. Men’s voices are heard at the door, then the sound of them trying to revive her. While this happens, the camera is fixed to show a close up of her husband, Michael (Lior Ashkenazi) as he stands mute and in a paralyzed disbelief. Their son, Jonathan (Yonatan Shiray), is in the military and to have soldiers knock at the door is the worst visit for a parent. This is the universal grief many parents share around the world, or in general, grief about the death of a loved one that hits our very core is universally understood. The overhead camera work by Giora Bejach during the heavy emotional scenes with Michael in close quarters is extraordinary, capturing the busy floor tile patterns that form a part of the storytelling experience.
Since each of the three sections of this film are so distinct, it is best to view this in the theater for the best experience rather than to read a description in full about what goes on in the world that Jonathan inhabits with his unit of soldiers. Here we find out what guard duty with three other soldiers is like in a remote part of the country. They each find a way to live through their reality, in varied ways. There are certainly interesting characters in this act, soldiers or not, and is something that should not be missed.
“Foxtrot” is gut-wrenching, with excellent casting for each performance, saying so much with very little. Maoz’s use of the actors conveying emotion with their facial expressions instead of dialogue is very effective. There is also excellent use of music by Ophir Leibovitch and Amit Poznansky, with songs that I would not have guessed would form part of the soundtrack of their lives.
Among the cast is: Gefen Barkai, Dekel Adin, Shaul Amir, Itay Exlroad, Danny Isserles, Itamar Rotschild, Roi Miller, Arie Tcherner, Yehuda Almagor, Shira Haas, Karin Ugowski. (Hebrew, German dialogue)
Source: Sony Pictures Classics