Yossi & Jagger
This film hit me pretty hard, given I empathise pretty strongly with the military setting. Set in a remote, snow-covered hilltop lookout post, Yossi, the Commander, and Jagger, a young officer, are lovers. Our realisation of this comes slowly as they are masters at covering their feelings when the men are about. Yossi orders Jagger to come on patrol with him, and only when they are out of prying eyes do you see the true state of affairs between them. What follows is one of the most beautifully realised yet modest love scenes I’ve seen on film.
This film is a cut above the average gay movie we’ve seen in every way, but particularly for acting and cinematography. It’s a very professional job and very convincing. Ohad Knoller is perfectly cast as Yossi, the “straight” commander of men whose feelings for one man change his life. Yehuda Levi is even more perfect as Jagger—described by the men as pretty as a woman (see picture above)—who wins Yossi’s heart. The supporting characters are utterly convincing, and by the end of the movie they’ve gone from anonymous soldiers with buzzed hair to a group of young men that have won our sympathy.
The film is way too short, and the relationship between these two beautiful men, which leaps with passion off the screen, isn’t given nearly enough time. But that may be an allegory for the story of their lives.
I loved this film. Simple yet memorably effective, it’s what can be achieved with good writing and quality acting.
You might be put off watching this film because it’s about an active unit in the Israeli army, based near the border with Lebanon, a deserted snowy landscape full of hidden danger. Well, let me tell you politics and religion don’t figure in this powerfully effective love story between two very different men that has universal appeal across all divides.
Yossi is in charge of the company and Jagger an officer. Yossi is a good soldier, reticent about displaying intimacy, reluctant to say I love you. Mouth-droppingly gorgeous, Jagger is a free spirit who sings, jokes around and laughs, with dancing, wicked blue eyes and an easy nature.
It’s a familiar scenario, but with its unique setting and particular circumstances (compulsory military service), this film really is something special, that shows how love grows often where you least expect to find it- like Brokeback Mountain.
Yossi doesn’t want anyone to know about their secret love. This is the army and such things just aren’t permitted- though commanders use female soldiers without reprisal.
Jagger nears the end of his compulsory military service. He wants Yossi to leave with him, to live together, tell their families and bring their love into the open as it should be. He dreams of a seaside holiday, a hotel room and one big bed, no more secrets.
They’re a mixed bunch of soldiers, nothing in common except they’d rather be home safe, listening to music, dancing and dating like young people everywhere than risking life and limb, forced to kill or be killed.
After Trembling Before God with its heartbreaking stories of how gay Israelis struggle with the impossibility of reconciling Judaism with their sexuality it’s particularly poignant to see another instance of how hard it is to be gay in Israel. Straight soldiers can form relationships to relieve stress and fight fear but Yossi & Jagger must be circumspect, so they invent excuses to get away from prying eyes. One of the highlights is one such excursion where they have fun and make sweet love in the snow. Usually however Yossi ensures they’re so discreet no one has a clue what’s going on. In one poignant scene where Jagger badgers Yossi to come out, fear of consequences causes him to be cruel and silent hurt comes off the normally exuberant Jagger.
There's violence and ribaldry but no graphic sex. This is a story about love, again like Brokeback, with a few wonderfully erotic shots of male intimacy: a kiss, looks and quiet words so much more effective to convey real feelings.
A haunting soundtrack adds to a story too short at just over an hour long. Yet, brief though it is, the relationship between Yossi & Jagger is perfectly done, tender and affectionate despite their difficult situation. Secondary characters are also well developed so you get to know the cook who wants to open a restaurant, a Buddhist soldier, the beautiful girl in love with Jagger- and his jealous comrade. Jagger’s romantic longings for Yossi mirror this unrequited love. I watched the rival look daggers at Jagger in fear he’d do something rash but the story is quietly restrained and more effective for it so no melodramatic scenes result.
The performances are excellent, so naturalistic it’s like a fly-on-the-wall documentary, and Yossi & Jagger real life lovers: Jagger the pretty boy comfortable with his gayness, but Yossi the typical macho soldier, muscle and brawn, more conflicted about his feelings and desire but drawn to the flamboyant Jagger.
Even though they have just returned from a mission they’re ordered out again almost immediately, tired and fed up. Events this night have dark consequences for Yossi & Jagger’s relationship. I was truly shocked; it ends in incredibly moving scenes with an intensity that made the emotions real. I’ve since discovered the film was based on a true story. A small gem. Don’t miss it!