Published Aug 19, 2010Following in the footsteps of critically acclaimed Israeli films Beaufort and Waltz with Bashir, Lebanon tackles the 1982 Lebanon invasion with polished verisimilitude. But where the former two more contemplative, reflective titles ― both winners of Israel's Best Picture Oscar equivalent ― stepped back from the conflict to assess its impact and frivolity, Lebanon immerses us in the war experience with unrelenting intensity and overwhelming claustrophobia.
With formalistic discipline, the entire film is shot in close-ups within a tank, depicting a group of soldiers on their first day in battle, confused and fearful, suffering occasional paralysis. Such is the case with Shmulik (Yoav Donat), a newly assigned gunman whose view through the tank's gun sight is our only glimpse at the war unfolding around them. With everyone around him screaming, he frantically moves the sight around, hesitating at the wrong moment, which results in the death of one of his men.
This nascent anxiety in an unthinkable situation, with only the sounds of a creaking tank, explosions and helicopters to suggest what's unfolding externally, creates a pure cinematic feeling of peril and identification. It also mostly removes political didactics, being concerned more with its structure and visceral impact than wagging a finger or preaching.
Some brief images of the Twin Towers and the Eiffel Tower on the wall of a travel agency briefly suggest otherwise, but the overriding propulsive factor is heat of the moment terror.
The depiction of inexperienced soldiers as human beings with fears and flaws, rather than blanket, honourable robots, might not sit well with more conservative or traditionalist viewers, but few could deny the intensity and chaos of the on screen events.
In fact, the sheer experience of Lebanon is something that should be seen on the big screen, with surround sound, in order to appreciate how truly engaging it really is. (Maple)