DVD Review – Lebanon

Lebanon

With an increasing number of movies being released about conflict in Iran and the “war on terror”, Lebanon comes almost as a breath of fresh air, dealing as it does with a conflict much less in the prevalent in the hearts and minds of most viewers.

Based on the personal experiences of Israeli director Samuel Maoz, Lebanon focuses on the early days of the First Lebanon War, and in particular the occupants of one of the Israeli Defence Force tanks. Young private Shmulik enters the tank fresh from the training field and finds himself suddenly in a warzone. (The IDF were there ostensibly to keep the peace but found themselves attacked by Syrian terrorists).

As the tank gunner he fumbles the first encounter with a hostile force, unable to shoot on people, and his inaction results in the death of another soldier. The next time he fires a shot “in anger” a civilian is mortally wounded, and these two experiences so early on colour his views of the conflict around him.

Maoz ensures the audience shares the claustrophobia inherent within this situation; the four soldiers in the tank never climb out of it, and the outside world is viewed either through the tight view of the gunsight or by the intrusion of other characters into the tank; their captain, a dead soldier, a hostage and a Phalangist, each intrusion more unwelcome than the one previously.

Because Shmulik is the one directing the sight we are forced to view things through his eyes. In many cases he focuses on the soldiers on the ground around him, rather than what they are aiming at, our view of the action is restricted, frustrating, sometimes disorientating.

Futhermore it disconnects the audience from any interaction with the scenes we see, the mortally wounded truck driver, a woman searching for her daughter in the rubble, there is little engagement with these people. Yet, surprisingly this makes it a more emotional experience, rather than less. The gunsight doesn’t flinch or move away, it is relentless in the need to capture the truth. With no comment from any of the characters, we are caught in the truth of each moment.

The four soldiers in the tank query their orders and the situation they find themselves in, but make no comment on the stark events that unfold. As both the commanding officer in the tank starts to lose his mind, and the major of the ground forces loses his way, they are forced to just carry on.

The tank itself is dank and unpleasant, worse after it is hit by an RPG. None of the men are older than their mid-20s, none seem born soldiers.

Lebanon was criticised by the Israeli government, who believed that its portrayal filthy and terrifying conditions would stop young men from enlisting. It’s an incredibly stark film, that finishes almost as abruptly as it starts. Don’t expect to learn much about that conflict from this film, the audience are kept as much in the dark as the soldiers in the tank.

Not a gung-ho war flick or an exposition on the conflict, it is however an exceptionally well directed film with a strong anti-war sentiment.

This review originally appeared at Blogomatic3000.com on September 3rd

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~ by moviegrrlreviews on September 10, 2010.

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