Policeman: Nadav Lapid’s Provocative Israeli Drama

policeman_posterIsraeli director Nadav Lapid makes an impressive feature debut with “The Policeman,” a thematically provocative, boldly conceived, sharply executed political drama.

The film played to great acclaim as several festivals in 2011, winning major award in Locarno and Jerusalem; I saw it at the New York Film Festival.

Set in contemporary reality, Lapid depicts Israel as a highly charged society, rife with both external and internal tensions.  The generic title does not do justice to the film’s rich text and subtext, which deals with the fight against terrorism and, even more originally, with the rising gap between the haves and haves not in a country that’s rapidly becoming ultra-materialistic and stratified.

 

 

policeman_4Yaron, the tale’s protagonist, belongs to an elite special operations squad, functioning as the spiritual leader and alpha male among his peers, a small, highly trained team that is part of the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Anti-Terrorism Unit.  Like a band of brothers, the men spend a lot of time together, working, playing, laughing and complaining.  In what is a realistic portrait and a critique, Lapid centers on the mores of machismo that prevails within the group, manifest in tight embraces, hand-shaking, and so on, and supported by some fetishistic rituals (including the use of their guns).

policeman_7Initially, they come across as committed citizens and true patriots whose love of country and home is undeniable.  Ambitious and energetic, Yaron’s daily life is defined by almost unbearable tensions. His wife is expecting their first child, and the failing health of a team member weighs on his him stronger than on the others for reasons that at first reamin unclear.  The effects of a fatal accident, caused by a miscalculation during a recent rescue mission, also show their signs.

policeman_5The story then shifts to another small group, a civilian one, largely composed of young, passionate, idealistic, and politically extreme individuals, who stubbornly hold onto their own vision of Israel as a modern and progressive society. Perceiving themselves as sort of contemporary Robin Hoods, they are using various methods, including terrorism, to turn their ideology into reality.

Both groups, the military and the civilian, and their respective, often misguided perspectives, are placed under the microscopic eye of Lapid, who proves to be a sharp writer and a skillful director, who is able to maintain tenstion throughout the yarn, not least through his astute mis-en-scene.

policeman_8As the saga unfolds, the conflicts increase and the already tense conditions swell to a boiling point, leading to Yaron’s newly-gained consciousness that the evils he and his peers wish to eradicate might have infiltrated their own ranks, in both manifest and latent ways.

Needless to say, “The Policeman” raises more provocative issues within its frame than it can possible deal in a profound manner, let alonessuggest resolutions.  Under the circumstances of this particular narrative, there is not—and cannot be—any clear closure or real catharsis for the tormented individuals or their spectators.

Cast:

policeman_2Yiftach Klein Michael Mushonov, Michael Aloni, Meital Berdah, Rona-Lee Shimon, Yaara Pelzig, Menashe Noi, Gal Hoyberger, Shaul Mizrahi, and Ben Adam.

Credits

Written and Directed by Nadav Lapid.

Running time: 105 Minutes

In Hebrew and English with English subtitles