Monday, October 17, 2011

New York Film Festival Day 7: Policeman

Here we are at the end. Policeman by Nadav Lapid is an intensely personal film about the clash between the idealistic youth in Israel and the ritualistic traditional Israel, all set against the backdrop of the growing gap between class. The plot is told in two parts, the first about an anti-terrorist police force, and the second with the young revolutionaries who of course meet in a bloody climax.

Ultimately I didn't care for the film. Its examination of Israeli manhood did not click with me, and the revolutionaries in the second half were interesting, but I feel the director could have accomplished the same film with about a half hour cut out. He uses repetition ad nauseum, which is a technique I enjoy usually, but here it just gets boring and tedious.

Also it doesn't help that there are no likable characters in the film. The central policeman is a brute who moves through the film with a chauvinistic swagger. An intense masculinity that the director wanted to get across, it just made him a jerk. The revolutionaries are interesting, but still are unrelatable. They are shown to be children of means, who take it upon themselves to plan a kidnapping of some of the richest people in Israel. They have an ideology and charisma, but it's hard to identify with such wealthy youth(with the exception of Oded and his father who have the best arc in the film) who seemingly abandon all ideals at the beginning of trouble.

The director said the film was a representation of reality and fantasy. So the first of the film is reality, men grow up they serve their country, there is a deep masculinity and virility in the culture. There is a brotherhood and physicality that permeates everything from hugging and kissing each other to massaging your wife. These are normal people living normal lives with a backyard and gatherings and kids.

The second part is the fantasy. This is the director idealizing his inability to stand up against injustice. To bring to light the inequality present between classes, he casts gorgeous young adults in as the leaders of the group, and gives them a charisma that could charm anyone. The end of the movie is a result of these two worlds meeting.

That in itself is interesting, if a little personal on behalf of the director. The film itself is decently made, and has plenty of interesting ideas. I love the way he begins each segment, really setting up the different viewpoints of our two groups of people. My only gripe is his inability to engage me on an emotional level. I can appreciate what he accomplished, but nothing here clicked for me to really be invested. Slow moving films, and repetition are fine, here though they distract from the powerful subject matter he was dealing with. Much like Mitre, I'm excited to see what this guy does next, but this film wasn't for me.


One last thought - I will say that hearing the director talk, explained a bit more of his intention, but needing to explain yourself is a bad quality for a film.

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