“On June 6, 1982, at 6:15 a.m., I killed a man for the first time in my life. I was 20 years old.”
Better than the trailer is Samuel Maoz’s essay on why he made this film. Back in 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon, Maoz — an Israeli tank gunner in the Armored Corps — was confined in a baking tank rolling into a PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) controlled village. He had been sent to an area of Lebanon that was rife with resistance.
He writes, “When I returned, my mother embraced me, weeping and expressing her gratitude to my deceased father, to God and to all who watched over me and returned me home safe and sound. At the time, she did not realize that I did not come home safe and sound. In fact, I did not come home at all. She had no idea that her son had died in Lebanon and that she was now embracing an empty shell.”
Writing the script for this film was an attempt to save himself. Maoz writes: “When a person feels he has nothing to lose, he takes chances. That’s how I felt in early 2007 when I started to write the script for “Lebanon.” I had hit rock bottom and decided to go all the way. This time, I would not run away from the smell, but would let it take me to the blurry scenes. I would put them in focus, dive right in and cope with it all!”
“Lebanon” takes place from the perspective of four panicked boys sweltering in a tank. The trailer shows the steaming tension of this situation through the superb dripping hot, scared expressions on the four-member tank crew. We quickly figure out that these metal boxes have no air conditioning — a survival issue in the baking Middle East. Added to this uncomfortableness is the fact that like the four boys in the tank, the viewer is privy to only two environments, inside the tank and the view the gunner can see on the outside.
Maoz’s goal was to provide a way both the actors and viewers could actually re-live his battle experience. So his cameras are there in the tank peering through the gunsite. The percussion soundtrack heightens the tension and fear for these four boys in a box surrounded by an inhospitable environment.
Maoz writes, “I wanted to talk about emotional wounds, to tell the story of a slaughtered soul, a story that was not to be found in the body of the plot, but derived from deep within it. How the hell could I put that on film? I realized I would have to shatter some basic principles and bend several rigid cinematic fixtures, creating a total experience instead of building a plot. The decision to make an experiential movie gave rise to the cinematic concept.”
Already winning three awards from film festivals, this film from Israeli eyes on their participation in the 50-year mid-east conflict should provide some fresh perspectives on the casualties of battle experience.
Writer and Director: Samuel Maoz
Producer: Uri Sabag
Director of Photography: Gloria Bejach
Cast: Cast: Yoav Donat, Itay Tiran, Oshri Cohen, Michael Moshonov, Zohar Strauss
Special Effects: Pini Klavir
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Runtime: 94 min
Language: English subtitles
Genre: Drama, War
Awards: Winner: Golden Lion 2009 Venice Film Festival
Official Selection: 2009 Toronto Film Festival
Official Selection: 2009 New York Film Festival
Release: Aug. 6, 2010, in NYC and Aug. 8, 2010, in LA
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