Chaos Theory

mv5bmtk2otayotytzdfkyi00zjbjltgyztmtodjjyzk1njbhm2nmxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjmymzi4mzy-_v1_The Netflix  Israeli action thriller Fauda, filters the poignancy of Hatufim (Prisoners of War) through lessons learned from its slick US conversion: Homeland (now muddling through a less slick 8th season set mostly in NY—to suit a homesick Claire Danes, if we’re to believe the tabloids).

This is the type of television described as ‘gritty’ and In Israel the series has been acclaimed for its realism. Also, criticized as overly sympathetic to Hamas but I would imagine any programme which attempts to depict any degree of complexity in the motivations of those labeled ‘terrorists’ will suffer from this.

In acting, pacing, cinematography, editing, etc. I have no complaint worth the mention; I’m sure I could pick apart any number of loose threads or moments where I might have made different choices but no more than with any comparable drama.

But there is one thing which grates so harshly that it brought me up sharply from any immersion on more than two occasions while less than four episodes in.

I didn’t need any blurb or a critic’s view to tell me the piece was billing itself as realistic—in some fundamental way true to life. This cuts across all conventions of cinema and television and is immune to most of the tricks used to convince because we’re talking of the human story: the actions of individuals, boiled down to whatever soup is required. It doesn’t matter whether it is literature or film in discussion because we’ve boiled that soup down to the hard stock cube of actions piled one on another which make up the tale in question. How the chef uses that to make a dish for theatre, television, film, or a novel, isn’t in question.

(I should warn that there are some spoilers if you’re fewer than four episodes in.)

Take the first time I was brought up short. After an abortive raid at a wedding party in the occupied territories, we see a character pick up a matchbook from a club in Israel. This leads into a revenge plot as it becomes the target for an attack.

So, we are to believe that a member of a crack commando team not only wears the same trousers or shirt on a mission as at home but doesn’t bother to turn out the pockets before action.

He might as well leave a yellow post it saying, if you want revenge, you’ll find my girlfriend here, and me too, if you’re lucky.

The second time was as the team are headed into the dangerous back streets of the occupied territories to attempt an assassination of a terrorist legend one of the soldiers shows another pictures of his children on his phone.

Again, why not carry a map to your loved ones home with a take revenge here sticker applied.

And this obvious point is to disregard the potential for phone tracking, IED detonation, and numerous other risks carrying one’s own cellphone into a mission could bring.

OK, we know Fauda means ‘chaos’, or something like it, but we have two choices here. We either accept the story as incompetent, fundamentally unrealistic, not gritty, or we have to view the Israeli army’s elite operatives as utter amateurs. I suppose there could be some version in between but I find it  hard to swallow and it made me roll my eyes sufficiently for them to miss the next line of subtitles, have to scroll back, and knock at least a star off any assessment I might make.

I have to say that I don’t understand the writer’s choices here. Could they really not come up with an alternative plot-driver, for want of a better term? If they are aware of these incongruities, do they not rankle them, as they do me?

I’m aware it’s unfair to single out Fauda, it’s only one among the herd in this respect but it’s head is a little further above the parapet owing to the dire action resulting and it happens to be the last thing I was watching.

Also, if I started a similar discussion centred on Homeland I’d still be writing next Christmas and the issue there is muddied by my dislike of the use of the central character’s bipolar condition for cheap plot thrills and twists.

Having hammered Fauda on these points, it’s only fair to say that the acting, pacing, direction, and writing all make it a great watch and I’m already itching for series two and despite my irritation over these details I wouldn’t like to think I put you off watching it.


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