Directed by Talya Lavie
Starring Dana Igvy, Nelly Tagar, Shani Klien
To quote a famous war movie, ‘Somebody once said hell is the impossibility of reason.’ (Hot Shots: Part Deux). Zero Motivation adds paperwork to this equation, to give us an intriguing insight into a remote Israeli Defence Force combat base… administrative section.
Daffi and Zohar are best friends, serving in the administration office on a military base in the south of Israel. Their days are swamped with boring paperwork, punctuated by competitive games of minesweeper and office gossip. Paper & Shredding NCO Daffi (Nelly Tagar) hates the dessert air (it plays hell on her hair and skin) and seeks to escape to urban splendour of Tel Aviv. Kibbutz raised Zohar (Dana Igvy), has a more basic issue, hoping to keep her insubordination in line long enough to concentrate on the important task of losing her virginity. Both these friends must survive the various hurdles the army keeps throwing in their way to achieve their goals. From commanding officers that wish them to be enthused about their work, pop singer office workers, attractive comrades in arms, to the worst of all – promotion.
Zero Motivation comes over like a mix of Private Benjamin, M*A*S*H* and Office Space, but still maintains its uniquely Israeli sensibilities. There seems a doubling up of both tedium and Byzantine bureaucracy in this combination of army and administration. It is through this mind-numbing boredom and seemingly pointless busywork that the girls navigate their lives. Yet there are also some extremely tense moments, as a number of darker issues that plague the military also raise their head here, including suicide, rape, and the toll on mental health. Zero Motivation clearly demonstrates this line between monotony and stress, revelling in the ridiculousness of it and punctuating it with an equally absurdist ending, complete with a cathartic climax and a denouement where competency is punished and failure is rewarded. It all has a certain twisted logic in this strange Kafkaesque microcosm. It may also signal the first ever appearance of Chekhov’s Staple Gun in a film.
Talya Lavine’s directorial debut is a satisfying piece, signifying a talent to keep an eye on. She shows us a claustrophobic world of people trapped in their work. The office space itself is an ever cramped environment, awash in drab but earthy colours. In this the environment is brought to life by a number of enjoyable performances. Dana Igvy is very good as the constantly insolent Zohar, Nelly Tagar gets great comedic mileage out of the constantly crying Daffi, and Shani Klein provides the ideal straight (wo)man as the long suffering CO.
Funny, thought provoking and absurdist, this is a non traditional look at soldiers in general and the Israeli military specifically.
Zero Motivation screens at Joondalup Pines from Tuesday, December 9, until Sunday, December 14, as part of Lotterywest Festival films. Go to perthfestival.com.au for more information.