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Review: Zero Motivation

There is a solitary Franz Kafka reference in Talya Lavie’s film Zero Motivation, but it is a clever one, and helped to underscore the absurdity at the heart of the film. Because when it comes to the experience of women in the IDF, (Israeli Defense Forces), this film demonstrates that is not brutal or terrifying, but it is instead mind-numbing and Kafkaesque.

We open with two friends Daffi, (Nelly Tagar) and Zohar, (Dana Ivgy), on their way to an Israeli base for their mandatory military service, (Israel requires women to serve in the army for a minimum of two years). Right away, we see the introduction of a third character that does not actually belong on the base, and through her story, is clear the direction that Lavie’s film is taking.

At the risk of providing too much background, as the film is best when it provides a shock, let’s just say that Zero Motivation gets really dark really quickly. But at its heart, it is a story about female friendship, monotony, and about the changing nature of close relationships, as in the different vignettes, (there are three), the focus changes as to which female character gets the most screen time. Interestingly, the villains become the heroes, the cowardly become the brave, and the only constant that remains is the tediousness of the experience, (though not of the movie watching experience, as after a slow-ish start, the film becomes absolutely captivating).

There are no expenses spared as to what is fair game in the focus of the jokes, and many taboo subjects are explored, and hints are provided early on about which ordinary objects can be turned into weapons. Perhaps the funniest sequences involve the computer games Minesweeper and FreeCell, suggesting a certain lack of place and removal from time to go along with the (in)action. Daffi and Zohar take on different roles through the unexamined passage of time throughout the film.

Make sure to stay attuned through to the ending. The humdrum nature of these women serving in the military is explored in great depth and the Kafka reference certainly enlightens. Though, in the coda, Zohar and Daffi receive their desired fates. Yet there is a certain sense of “okay, well what now?” which makes the proceeding events even more absurd, especially considering their shared desire to be anywhere else but on the base. Kafkaesque indeed!

[star v=4]