החייל הנעלם

Israel

Synopsis

An 18-year-old Israeli soldier flees the Gaza battlefield and heads back to his girlfriend in Tel Aviv only to discover that the military elite is convinced he was kidnapped in the fog of war.

A tragic-comic journey, taking place over a period of 24 hours on the hot and humid streets of Tel Aviv, shifting from terror to hope, from romance to nightmare.

Director's Statement

One night, I stood alone at a guard post in a military camp in the Judean Desert. I was 18-years-old, having endured months of violence, training, and scorching sun. In a spontaneous decision, I descended from the observation tower, climbed over the camp's fence, and began running in what I believed was the direction of the main road. Over time, the wind against my face slowed my run to a walk. Unable to locate the road, the only lights piercing the dark night were those emanating from the base behind me. After a long and fearful hour, I retraced my steps and stealthily returned to the base, my failed attempt to escape never to be discovered.
I want to delve into the essence of that event, that night when I rebelled but didn't go all the way. I've tried to decipher why I didn't act, and why even today, amidst the violent reality outside and my awareness of the crimes committed by my country, I continue to stay here and essentially continue to collaborate.
Shlomi, the protagonist of "The Vanishing Soldier," is an 18-year-old soldier who escapes the battlefield and seeks to return home. Throughout his journey, Shlomi relentlessly traverses a blurred line stretching all the way from his escape from the Gaza Strip to Tel Aviv, where the boundaries between a war zone and the urban sphere dissolve. He never stops moving. Perhaps for the first time in his life, Shlomi fights to forge his independent identity, only to discover that the more he struggles, the deeper he sinks into the quicksand until his identity is ultimately taken over by the circumstances.

Shlomi evades his duties, duties that would have assimilated him into a cruel and unjust system designed to oppress and control the Palestinians. Fleeing Gaza, he heads towards Tel Aviv, a place that appears to symbolize normalcy, just an hour and a half away from Gaza, yet light-years apart. However, this semblance of normalcy is punctured by walls, fences, and intricate systems that intercept the missiles launched from Gaza into small clouds in the sky. Shlomi realizes he is trapped in a perpetual limbo, moving back and forth between Gaza and Tel Aviv. He cannot escape the prevailing chaos and violence. It is the tension between passion and law, oscillating between motion and stagnation.

Shlomi, a naive dreamer styled by legends in Jewish fairytales, desperately searches for anchors. He yearns for a narrative that can lend meaning to his escape, stories to cling to. However, one by one, they crumble, from the desolation of his parents' empty house to the ephemeral hope of romance.
Against his will, Shlomi transitions from a deserter to a captive, from someone who opted to distance himself from the war and redefine his identity to an individual whose autonomous existence is consumed by the image of "the captured soldier". The erosion of Shlomi's personal identity reflects a broader loss of identity intertwined with the trajectory of my country.
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Dani Rosenberg

Written by: Dani Rosenberg, Amir Kliger

Produced by: Chilik Michaeli, Avraham Pirchi, Itamar Pirchi

Cinematography: David Stragmeister

Editing: Nili Feller

Production Design: Ben-Zion Porat

Costume Design: Ofri Barel

Make-Up & Hair: Shir Matsrafi

Original Score: Yuval Semo

Sound: Neal Gibbs

Visual Effects: Yaron Yashinski

Casting: Limor Shmila

Cast: Shmulik Cohen (Shlomi's father), Ido Tako (Shlomi), Mika Reiss (Shiri), Efrat Ben Zur (Shlomi's mother), Tiki Dayan (Grandmother)

Nominations and Awards

  • Feature Film Selection 2023