03 January 2013

Best of 2012: Nadav Lapid's Policeman

2011, Israel
Nadav Lapid

In just his second feature, Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid displays a bold confidence, narratively and stylistically, that's hard to fully grasp in a single sitting. When you look at the completed careers of some of the cinematic greats, few have found their footing or their voice by their second film, but with the way films are made these days, young filmmakers are expected to have mastered these things by, at least, their third film if they want to stay in the consciousness of both their audience and the film industry. So when a filmmaker shows such an ease with their visions at an early stage, we begin to fear that they've already peaked, or that they're a one- (or two-) trick pony... even though we've already decided that they should have found their cinematic voice by that point. Making a big splash early isn't easy.


In a sense, Policeman is actually Lapid's first feature; his previous film, Emile's Girlfriend (which features the same leading man Yiftach Klein as Policeman), only clocks in at forty-eight minutes, technically three minutes in the green according to the French definition of a "feature film." In Policeman, Klein plays Yaron, the central figure of the first of the film's dueling narratives. Yaron is a young, handsome policeman working with a group of other men as part of an anti-terrorist unit. In his personal life, he and his wife are anxiously awaiting their first child to be born; professionally, he and his fellow officers are coming off  an assignment where it seems things didn't go as they should have. The most fascinating elements of Policeman can be found in its small details and the whispers of strange, complicated side stories that are (purposefully) kept along the peripheral.

The second narrative concerns Shira (Yaara Pelzig), a fair-skinned, blonde, waifish revolutionary who is plotting, along with a handful of other young Jewish leftists, a large-scaled attack around the wedding of the daughter of one of Israel's wealthiest capitalists. Propelled by Pelzig's icy performance, Shira becomes an endlessly transfixing and perplexing figure, a commanding presence who is deeply conflicted with everything except, possibly, her mission. Naturally, the storylines collide in the final third of the film, leaving a rather surprising, or at least unexpected, aftertaste. After taking home a number of prizes at the Jerusalem, Locarno, BAFICI, Philadelphia, and San Francisco Film Festivals, Lapid certainly has a lot of promise to live up to when his next film begins its festival rounds; and hopefully that won't take too long to happen.

With: Yiftach Klein, Yaara Pelzig, Michael Aloni, Menashe Noy, Michael Moshonov, Gal Hoyberger, Meital Barda, Shaul Mizrahi, Rona-Lee Shim'on, Ben Adam

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