Lebanon

From Sept ’10 Spotlight:   Israeli filmmaker Samuel Maoz’s first feature Lebanon won a slew of well-deserved technical awards from the Israel Film Academy last year including Art Direction, Cinematography and Sound Design.

A harrowing account of Israel’s 1982 invasion, Lebanon is set completely inside the sweat and steam of a battle tank. Much like Saving Private Ryan, Lebanon succeeds in placing us directly in the line of fire (somewhere most of us have never been), but fails to create fully convincing characters. And if you have already seen Joseph Cedar’s Oscar-nominated film Beaufort (which has some of the same actors), then this will add to the slightly stale feeling.

Lebanon opens locally on Aug. 27 at Music Box Theatre on Southport and Landmark Renaissance Place Cinema in Highland Park.

Photo Credits: Zohar Strauss as “Jamil” in the crosshairs

& giving new gunner “Shmulik” (Yoav Donat) battle orders.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

FURTHER REFLECTIONS…

In 2006, I attended a Chicago Humanities Festival session called “Can a ‘War-Film’ Oppose War?” with special guest Walter Murch (the Oscar-winning editor of Apocalypse Now & the recently released Jarhead).  The panelists had in hand a scholarly article which argued that all war films are pro-war even when they try to be anti-war.  Why?  Because combat scenes always juice war up & that always makes war seem attractive. The primary example was the scene in Jarhead showing new recruits watching Apocalypse Now.  They’re screaming their heards off, cheering as American helicopter gunners blow Vietnamese villagers to smithereens (with Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries playing at ear-shattering volume on the soundtrack).

Anyway, that’s how I remember it.  I thought I saved the article but I can’t seem to find it now.  But I remember thinking the argument was completely bogus.  Sure the scene in question gives the audience a rush, but it’s at the very beginning of a long journey upriver, a journey which grows ever darker until “Captain Willard” (Martin Sheen) finally reaches the black hole called “Colonel Kurtz” (Marlon Brando).  To my mind, Apocalypse Now is only “pro-war” if you cherry-pick, refusing to look at scenes too painful to see.

All this comes to mind now as I read the same tired arguments about Lebanon, but with a new twist: for some it’s pro-war, for others it’s anti-war; for some the Israeli solders are heroes, for others the Israeli soldiers are villains.  To which I say: once you start cherry-picking, you’ll see whatever you want to see because it’s all there!

Human behavior, with all its inherent complexity, is at its most extreme during wartime.  So as we sit watching from the safety of our theatre seats, we need to absorb this & stop looking for easy answers.  It seems to me that war has always been a fact of life & my guess is that war will probably always be a fact of life.  Oh, if only you could prove me wrong.  

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