The winner of six Ophir Awards (the Israeli equivalent of the Oscars), this is a quirky armed services comedy with a difference. It focuses more on the inept army portrayed in television’s F Troop (from the mid ‘60s) than the finely tuned force usually associated with the Israeli army, but so be it.
At a remote desert base in southern Israel, it is the female clerical staff who are at the centre of the action. Zero Motivation tells the story of soldiers engaged in battles against the absurdity of the bureaucracy that governs their lives. These are women armed with staple guns (their most prized possessions), paper shredders and strongly worded letters.
After growing up on macho, male-dominated films about war and heroism, first-time feature director Talia Lavie turns her attention to women who undertake compulsory military service in offices throughout Israel. This is an ode to all those who have undertaken menial and seemingly pointless work. Basically, these are young women just trying to make it through the day with their dignity and sanity intact. Mind you, given the environment they are in, that is all but impossible. They are restless and bored and belligerent, so – as often as not – they clash.
The movie is divided into three chapters that propel events forward. It takes a while to get the gist of just what is going on here and what the point of the film is, but the charm offensive wins out the longer it progresses. Some of these women appear seriously unhinged and God forbid that anyone’s lives were actually in their hands. The title Zero Motivation says it all.
The crocodile tears of Daffi (Nelly Tagar), who is desperately unhappy and thinks a transfer will do her the world of good, are difficult to take. Her best friend, Zohar (Dana Ivgy), meanwhile, becomes seriously “bad-ass” as she and Daffi face off. Their immediate superior, Rama (Shani Klein), is looking for promotion but has difficulty controlling and motivating her subordinates.
A black comedy, this should please a younger audience more than seasoned cinema goers and yet there is something in its zaniness that is universally attractive. Rated M, Zero Motivation scores a 6½ to 7 out of 10.
Director: Talya Lavie
Cast: Dana Ivgy, Nelly Tagar and Shani Klein
Release date: 25 June 2015
Rated: MA 15+
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television