According to director Samuel Maoz, his film, Foxtrot, captures the bleeding soul of Israel. They moments are caught in a dance (a foxtrot if you will) with war, and every generation starts at the same point again. Whether it’s the Holocaust, the Lebanon war, or the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, everyone has their scars. Maoz’s first film, Lebanon, was rooted from his extreme PTSD during the Lebanon war. Foxtrot was inspired by his daughter nearly herself in the middle of a terrorist attack. While these films may have different plots, their themes are the same.
A woman, Dafna, opens to find two soldiers at her door. She immediately falls to the ground and starts having a seizure while her husband, Michael, looks over in horror. They both know what these men have come to say. Their son, Jonathan, has been killed in the line of duty, and while being the bearer of bad news is just standard procedure for these men, it’s not for Michael and Dafna. Dafna is given a sedative to relax, while Michael is bombarded with unknown hands and voices forcing him to drink water every hour and notify the necessary people. The camera focuses on Michael’s face as he has to take in not only the death of his son but also these people trying to give him orders.
Maoz beautifully illustrates Michael’s powerlessness in a world full of authority. His apartment may be full of furniture but always has a sense of emptiness. Sure, the painting of the black hole on the wall may be a little on the nose, but it works in Maoz’s favor. The symbolism and metaphors of loss give the film a beautifully poetic touch.
The film eventually shifts to Jonathan himself on his final days. He works at a remote desert checkpoint with three other soldiers by his side. They open the gates for camels, dance with their guns in their hands, and humiliate Palestinian drivers. Their residence is a literal shed that seems to be shifting and sinking every night (another on the nose metaphor for the sinking of their morality). In their free time, they play video games, listen to heavy metal, and wonder what exactly they are fighting for.
A specific plot point had the Israeli government condemn the film because they thought it was Anti-Israel and a blatant lie about its politics. And while this particular plotline is very tragic and shocking, Israel seems to be focused on the wrong aspect. There is no doubt that Maoz is angry at his country for sending their boys to die to needlessly die, but this isn’t just talking to Israel; Foxtrot is both specific and universal, extending its themes to other countries who are guilty of the same crime.
Maoz brilliantly toes the line between black comedy and drama. Within ten minutes, you spend time grieving over a lost son and then immediately transition to that same boy dancing with a machine gun in his hand. Questionable politics are present in every country and hopes that Foxtrot will help the younger generations get out of that never-ending dance.