“The Vanishing Soldier” is a coming of age story, as breathless as its protagonist: the kind of film that will make cinephiles of seventeen-year-olds. Which is one of the reasons that Dani Rosenberg, the film’s 43-year-old director, is delighted to be in Locarno, where the film, sold by Intramovies, is screening in main competition, and has just got a trailer, and poster, shared in exclusivity with Variety.
“We had options for other festivals,” Rosenberg told Variety at the Swiss fest.
“But Locarno is the best place because it’s a festival that admires films and not topics. We want the film to be first seen as cinema; not as an Israeli story about conflict.”
So what cinema inspired you?
“My first image when I was writing the script was Buster Keaton. I imagined the chases like slapstick chases, like “Cops,” from his era. And obviously, the ‘70s paranoia films, like Samuel Fuller and DePalma as well as “Breathless.” This is a kind of adolescent film. The main character, Shlomi, is a kind of Antoine Doinel figure.”
Ido Tako plays Shlomi, an eighteen-year-old soldier who one night while his unit is under attack runs away. The seed for the story comes from an actual incident which occurred during Rosenberg’s own military service. “One night, after a couple of weeks in the army, after training in the sun, I was guarding the camp in the middle of the desert. And I just wanted to run away. So I got down from the tower and started to run, looking for the main road. But it was a completely dark night.”
“After one hour, the only lights I could see were the lights of the camp from behind me. So I return and go up the tower again. And no one ever knew about this failed attempt to escape. So I was covered. I didn’t find the courage to really go against the system. But it struck me back then to imagine what happens if I did have the guts,” he added.
Shlomi runs to Tel Aviv, a city surreally close to the battlefield. “Tel Aviv is a vivid, rich city; it’s one of the capitals of the LGBTQ movement, and is also a city that is just one hour drive from the Gaza strip, one of the poorest places with two million Palestinians behind walls and those walls are built with the money of the city of Tel Aviv,” said Rosenberg.
“It’s also one of the only big cities in the world without Arabs, because after the Second Intifada, they kicked them out. So the young generation in Israel really don’t meet Palestinians in daily life. The first time they see Palestinian’s is through night goggles.”
In a remarkable moment in Israel’s history as members of Shlomi’s generation are refusing to report for their military duty in protest, how does Rosenberg feel that chimes with the story of the film?
“First of all, it gives me hope, because the young generation could suddenly rise up and they are doing something my generation never did. Questioning the system, fighting the system. In the beginning, I was critical about this rising, because I felt they’re fighting only for their privilege; for their rights. But now I see that they’ve started to open their eyes. Now they’re seeing that actually they’re living in an unjust country, in a violent country, in a religious country, a militaristic country, and for the first time in Israeli history, reserve soldiers are declaring that they will not return to the army.”
In the film two tourists refer to the army as the soul of the country. In his research, Rosenberg couldn’t find any examples of desertion during wartime.
“The army was something holy in Israel. You can say that you do not agree, but in the end, you will do what they tell you. And for the first time, we will say ‘no.’ We won’t do what they tell us with blind eyes. Shlomi is a child and he wants his youth, his mother, his girlfriend.”
Rosenberg’s first film, “The Death of Cinema and My Father,” was among the ill-fated Cannes Label films, selected for a festival which in the end was canceled by the pandemic. Rosenberg is relieved that “The Vanishing Soldier” has received a positive reception from the festival crowd and is looking forward to a new project. “I had ideas but actually I now feel I need a blank page.”
- Locarno Title ‘The Vanishing Soldier’ Drops Trailer, as Helmer Dani Rosenberg Talks Buster Keaton, Israeli Protests (EXCLUSIVE)
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