Dir/scr: Sharon Bar-Ziv. Israel. 2012. 90mins
The confrontational drama at the heart of new Israeli film Room 514 is impressively staged, as a determined young female military investigator has to take on the complex case of a top officer who may have exceeded his authority while also tackling good old-fashioned sexism in the workplace. Largely set in the confines of the interrogation room – the Room 514 of the title – it is well performed and nicely intense at times.
Asia Naifeld is excellent in a demanding role that raises as many questions about the woman’s place in the military as it does the Israeli army’s attitude.
World premiering at the Rotterdam Film Festival, Sharon Bar-Ziv’s feature debut may well tread familiar territory, but the structure – long takes, plenty of close-ups, a claustrophobic atmosphere and a complex heroine – make the film memorable and it should be a regular at other film festivals.
The structure is simple. Anna (the impressive Asia Naifeld) is investigating a case involving Israeli soldiers attacking Palestinian civilians after stopping them. But after getting information from a moralistic Sgt Nimrod (Guy Kapul) she has to interrogate the heroic company commander of a special unit Davidi (Udi Persi), who is adamant that he has done no wrong.
Further complications come in the form of her direct boss Erez (Ohad Hall) with whom Anna is having a passionate affair (they have sex in Room 514) despite the fact he is soon to be married. He warns her off the case, but her sense of integrity forces her to face-off with Davidi and get him to admit his decisions (in a similar fashion to Jack Nicholson’s Col. Nathan R Jessup in A Few Good Men).
Interrogation room dramas are all rather familiar, but the intensity is kept to a strong level. The film has just two locations – Room 514 and the bus Anna takes to go home – but this helps the atmosphere of the film. Anna’s love affair is convincing up until a scene where Erez brings his fiancée Michali (Hilly Israel) into the room to have her be told by Anna that he wasn’t at her place the night before.
Anna is a nicely complex character, with Asia Naifeld excellent in a demanding role that raises as many questions about the woman’s place in the military as it does the Israeli army’s attitude. It is a shame, then, that the film doesn’t have the strength to have Anna forthright and confrontational until the end. In the final scene she has a meeting with the General Major (Rafi Kalmar) that sees her conviction drain away in the face of authority.
Production companies: Cinema Alpha Productions, Israeli Film Fund
Sales contact: Cinema Alpha Productions, www.cinema-alpha.com
Producers: Michal Rubin, Bibi Arbel Rekhess
Cinematography: Edan Sasson
Editor: Shira Arad
Production designer: Tamara Gleser-Shafran
Main cast: Asia Naifeld, Guy Kapul, Ohad Hall, Udi Persi, Rafi Kalmar