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The film starts with a young soldier who runs over hills and through fences, crossing the ambiguous lines which separate a war zone from the city. He runs and runs, for a long time, in a videogame-like fashion, the promise of a hyperkinetic movie. This is Shlomi, eighteen-years-old, a deserter, fleeing the battlefield in the Gaza Strip and heading towards Tel Aviv to meet his girlfriend. Once there, he is shocked to discover that his small, yet dangerous act of rebellion has been tragicomically misunderstood and the Israeli Defense Forces are instead convinced that he was kidnapped in the fog of war. Over the course of 24 hours, Shlomi sets off on an increasingly surreal journey through the streets of the city, playing a chaotic hide-and-seek game with the reality around him. A deserter or a captive? The erosion of Shlomi’s individual identity parallels the broader loss of identity of the whole country, revealing in the process the profoundly disconnected soul of the Israeli society. Following up on his celebrated debut The Death of Cinema and My Father Too (Cannes Official Selection 2020), The Vanishing Soldier is the second feature by Dani Rosenberg and firmly establishes his name as one of the most distinctive new voices in world cinema today. Rosenberg orchestrates a singularly dynamic film that floats in a suspended space, a liminal limbo between daydream and nightmare, comedy and drama, a clearsighted kaleidoscope that looks fiercely political and constantly refreshing in its formal playfulness. The film originates from an anecdote from the director’s personal life and, more generally, from his frustration of living within the violent reality of his country, the awareness of the crimes that the State systematically perpetrates against the Palestinians, and the uneasy feeling of an everyday mute complicity. And this is why Shlomi symbolically defects, rejecting war and those ideals he doesn’t believe in, subverting an unjust system that is designed to oppress. Seeing his girlfriend again is a much nobler goal to him. However, there’s no space for easy, naïve idealism in The Vanishing Soldier. A small TV screen bitterly reminds us that bombings on Gaza don’t stop anyway, and while Shlomi plays his hallucinated cat-and-mouse game with the IDF and society at large, Palestinians keep on dying just a few miles away from the clean streets of Tel Aviv and its cozy bars, its pleasant beaches and its effective Iron Dome. Finally, all eyes on newcomer Ido Tako, a true revelation: his fearless performance in the role of Shlomi is nothing short of astonishing.
The Vanishing Soldier CURIOSITIES
Dani Rosenberg graduated from the Sam Spiegel Film School-Jerusalem. His film has been nominated for 10 Awards from the Israeli Film Academy, among which Best Film, Director and Actor for Ido Tako.