Lebanon (15)

Written and directed by Samuel Maoz
Screening at FACT from 3rd-10th June 2010

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

This film - except for the opening and closing moments - is set inside a tank, and features the inevitable claustrophobic and mind-numbing effects of being in a hot and filthy metal can ready to be blown up at any time.

Directed and written by a former Israeli conscript soldier, this is no propaganda piece extolling Israel's right to invade Lebanon in 1982. Indeed there is little political context within the movie, although one can not doubt it has an overwhelming anti-war message.

Unsurprisingly, the film has not been welcomed with open arms in Israel, where it is still awaiting a wide release.

The drama of Lebanon - it could surely have had a better title - is set within a 24 hour timespan during the opening days of the conflict, with a major part of what you see - often horrendous atrocities commited by the Israelis against often unarmed Lebanese - being observed through the gunner's viewfinder.

The whining and metallic sound of the gun turret adds further dramatic impact to what is being seen, as the gunner changes its direction to focus on something new.

One particular powerful image among many - the cinematography of Giora Bejach is also highly impressive - is a shot of a elderly Lebanese man sitting at a cafe table, seemingly almost unmoved by a fellow Lebanese slumped dead on the same table, covered in blood.

All the soldiers in the tank are all conscript rookies - the gunner Shmulik (Yoav Donat) has never fired a gun in anger, and kills one of his own men when he finally does, after an anguished tussle with his nerves.

The tension in the tank rises almost minute by minute as the conflict outside their confines intensifies, and the fighting gets bloodier.

This reaches fever pitch at the end of the film, when they are apparently abandoned inside an already bombed city, surrounded by unseen Syrian troops, and lose radio contact with their commanding officers.

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