Written and directed by Talya Lavie, Zero Motivation (original Hebrew film title is Zero in Human Relations,) is a gem. Presenting a wide range of topics, the film’s language is crude yet anything but stupid. It portrays several female Israeli soldiers, serving in a remote desert base, trying not to lose their mind out of boredom until their time is up and they can return to civilian life. In the process we are introduced to characters who are the makeup of Israeli society, though ethnicities and social classes are not the focus here. These are young women who had recently graduated high-school, with its related age-appropriate mentality, and are now expected to act as adults. Surprise, surprise: they don’t.
Through well-played, borderline absurd, host of mostly comic situations, Zero Motivation allows each of its chief characters to play out their drama; whether it’s the rebellious Zohar (Dana Ivgi,) her spoiled best friend Daffi (Nelly Tagar,) or their ambitious supervising officer Rama (Shani Klein,) to mention only a few. None really gets what she wants, but rather, like in a good comedy, what she deserves.
Zero Motivation had been compared to Private Benjamin meets MASH on the backdrop of Office Space. It is not a bad comparison, yet this film stands respectfully and originally all on its own. Praises go to the entire cast as well as to the filmmaker, Talya Lavie (this is her debut feature film,) and the crew that created a Kafkaesque-like atmosphere through art direction and camera work. Non-Israeli audiences may miss some of the references, but many of the themes seem to be universal and will hit home everywhere.