The Policeman: A Review


Review and interview by Shayna Abramson. For more work by Shayna, check out Kiruv, In Defense of “Everything But” as a (Modern?) Orthodox Ideal, Chanukah Miracle, Tu B’Av: The Jewish Valentine’s Day?, and Fish for Thought: Pants.

Rated PG
Identity, which has been at the core of the Zionist project since its inception, is woven throughout Policeman, a film by Nadav Lapid. The film is a searing exploration of what it means to be a Zionist in the 21st Century.

The film starts off by telling us the story of Yaron, a military policeman. Yaron’s Zionist identity is expressed through his masculinity. His Zionism is embodied in his physical fight for Israel’s existence as he battles her enemies through his military career. There are many shots spent portraying Yaron’s body, and the ways in which he uses it in interactions with family and friends. The film then goes on to tell us the story of a young group of rebels concerned for Israel’s spiritual survival as they battle for an Israel of economic equality.

The father of Oded, one of the young rebels, says that in order to be a revolutionary, one must be “a lost man”, because any ties to family or community – any bonds to anything besides the revolution itself – can cause the revolution to fail. Yet it is the ties to people, not ideals, that drive the group’s revolutionary fervor: Oded is in the group because he is in love with Shira, who is in love with Netanel, the group leader. Oded’s father is in the group because once he cannot stop his son, he decides to share his son’s fate.

The actions of Oded’s father stand in stark contrast to those of Yaron, who, rather than take responsibility and share the blame with loved ones, chooses to scapegoat a terminally ill colleague, Ariel, for a military mission gone wrong. Yaron is egged on by his wife, who points out that with no family and a small chance of living, for Ariel “it really doesn’t matter”. But if Ariel’s lack of family makes him poised to be the perfect martyr for the cause of Israeli anti-terror activities, Yaron’s ability to put his reputation above his friendships – all in the name of the cause, of course – is a flaw within the cause itself. At the end of the movie, Ariel says to Yaron, “We’re like family”, but those words ring hollow because of Yaron’s betrayal, implying the beginning of a breakdown in the unity that once held the military unit together and was the secret to their success. The betrayal of Ariel already started earlier on in the film, when Ariel had to sit with the women and watch Yaron and his other male friends fight each other, because he was too sick to participate. Ariel’s exile to feminine Otherness was the beginning of his downfall, but how does a system built on fighting the Other survive when it begins finding Otherness within its own ranks?

The issue of Otherness reappears in the final scene, when Yaron stares into the eyes of the dead enemy, Shira, who is a Jewish girl, rather than the Arab men he is used to, silently wondering, “Have I just killed one of Us?”

But Zionism isn’t the only identity portrayed in the film; the issue of gender also permeates the story. One of the most interesting moments comes when Shira, a kidnapper, confronts Hila, a kidnapee, who is all dressed up in her wedding gown, saying, “You are not a person, you are a bride. You don’t have a face, you have makeup”, before spilling a drink on her dress and messing up her hair. Hila retaliates by telling Shira that after she comes out ugly from twenty years in prison, “You’ll wish you were like me”. This moment of pure, unbridled bitchiness in the middle of an otherwise male-dominated space is not only a statement about female rivalry, but is also a very real moment in the middle of a completely surreal situation. It is small touches like this that make the film seem so true to life; the film makes us feel as if we are behind the invisible fourth wall, unobserved observers of the saga happening onscreen.

Shira says to Hila that the kidnapping is the most meaningful thing that will ever happen to her, but surely, Shira’s words can be applied to herself just as much as to her victim. All of the main characters are perhaps revolutionaries in that they dedicate their lives to different ideals. But they all are also lost souls searching for meaning and not quite sure how to find it, and struggling to situate themselves into a community – whether it is a community of armed rebels or the community of the Israeli army. Perhaps in this, they mirror Israel herself: A radical project born in the crucible of revolutionary fervor, struggling to be so many different things to so many different people, holding meaning for a variety of Jews in ways that often contradict each other.

Policeman opens in select theaters on June 13th. For more information, please go to:

Continue reading – An Interview with Actor Michael Moshonov…

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Shayna is a native Manhattanite whose interests include Torah, human rights, and poetry. An avid procrastinator, Shayna spends most of her time on Facebook, or watching any game involving the Brazilian soccer team. Brasil para Mundial 2014!