Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lebanon


Levanon; war drama, Israel/ Germany/ France/ Lebanon, 2009; D: Samuel Maoz, S: Michael Moshonov, Oshri Cohen, Itay Tiran, Yoav Donat, Zohar Shtrauss

Four young Israeli soldiers; Yigal, Assi, Hertzl and Shmulik, are inside a tank and get an order to drive it into Lebanon during the '82 war, as a support for a IDF unit. They stop at a road and look through the telescop of the horrors outside. The nervous Yigal shoots at an approaching truck and kills the driver, a civilian who was transporting chickens. Driving through a Lebanese town after IDF's bombardment, they witness Arabs taking a family as a human shield on the floor. After their tank gets damaged when a rocket hits it, their leader, Jamil, advises them to follow a Phalangist to safety. Yagil dies, while their tanks stops in a meadow.

"You only see the small picture. You have to look at the bigger picture", tells one of the characters through the course of the film "Lebanon". It's funny that they said that, because unlike a mass of war films that neatly present to the viewers everything about the conflict in question, always giving them the bigger picture served on a silver plate, "Lebanon" actually does the exact opposite - it presents only the smaller picture to the viewers, the narrow perspective of the four soldiers in a tank who do not know exactly what is going on outside. The whole film is presented through their perspective, from inside the tank, with only the telescope as a "window" to the outside. Not since Hitchcock's "Rope" has there been such an experimental and inventive approach to a story, creating a suspenseful 'kammerspiel' of the four protagonists. So many films chew out old cliches again and again, which is why it is so refreshing to see someone take a risk and do something new like here.

Director Samuel Maoz re-creates some of his traumatic experiences in the '82 Lebanon war as a therapeutic essay and thus shocks a lot, but he never does it without a reason, which is why everything has its why and because. For instance, one of the four IDF soldiers in the tank loses his nerves and shoots at an approaching truck on the road. It turns out it was just a civilian, who was only transporting chickens. One other scene, where they use their telescope to observe a dying donkey on the road, who seems to be crying, is one of the most emotionally devastating moments of the decade. And yet everything has its reason and wisdom. The scene where an Arab woman's dress catches fire and she stays almost naked on the street along the IDF lines is another example of staggering writing/ experience. Maybe the film does lose some of its power in the second half and turns slightly pretentious towards the end, yet it cannot be denied that as a whole it is a bravura directed piece of filmmaking and one of the best films on the topic of the '82 Lebanon War.

Grade:+++

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