Wednesday, 25 May 2011


If you thought watching an entire film from inside a coffin was claustrophobic, try watching an entire war film from inside a tank.

Lebanon is an Israeli anti-war film about the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The entire film takes place in a tank, though we see things happening outside the tank through the tank’s telescopic gun sight. What we see, both inside and out, is horrific. The four men trapped inside the tank during those first 24 hours of the invasion are college-age boys who have no idea what they are doing there (they just want to be home with their families). As a result, it does not take long for them to crack, each in his own way, as the tank turns into a hot, stinking nightmarish cage surrounded by the enemy (the word ‘hell’ comes to mind). Few films so clearly depict the psychological impact of war.

Mesmerizing, terrifying, agonizing and incredibly intense, Lebanon uses one small window to reveal the destructive and dehumanizing power of war for soldiers and civilians on all sides. But there are moments of profound humanity. Indeed, the most profound scenes in the film are three long scenes of men peeing.

Lebanon would not have been near as powerful a film were it not for the stellar performances by the four key actors - truly amazing work.

Apparently, the 1982 invasion of Lebanon must have been a particularly traumatic experience for the soldiers who participated. Lebanon was written and directed by Samuel Maoz, who was himself inside that tank in 1982, and a few years ago we had Waltz With Bashir, also written and directed by a man who had been an Israeli soldier during the invasion (Ari Folman). Could it be that such former soldiers are not convinced the invasion was justified and are haunted by what they were asked to do? Will these films have an impact on a country constantly at ‘war’ with its neighbours (even those within its borders)? The fact that both of these films were made with the help of Israeli government funding suggests there is reason to hope.

Like Bashir, Lebanon gets ****. My mug is up.

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