Beaufort בופור, Waltz with Bashir ואלס עם באשיר & Lebanon לבנון
Within a two-year timeframe the films Beaufort (2007) by director Joseph Cedar, Waltz with Bashir (2008) by director Ari Folman and Lebanon (2009) by director Samuel Maoz, were released based on the directors’ personal experiences in the First Lebanon War of 1982. What is of special interest are the different approaches, styles and sensibilities which each director brings to his movie.
All three films won critical acclaim and were nominated for prestigious international awards. At that moment in time Israeli cinema became a world-class phenomenon.
Beaufort, the film, is based on the novel of the same name. It chronicles the daily routine of a group of soldiers positioned at the 12th century Crusader stronghold of Beaufort Castle. The film explores their feelings, fears and their moral dilemmas in the days preceding the withdrawal and end of the 18-year South Lebanon conflict. They are “sitting ducks” for the surrounding unseen enemy who drops bombs at will. Liraz Liberti, the 22-year-old outpost commander is witness to death and destruction by attrition and to his soldiers’ mental and physical disintegration. Their mission is to defend the fort until the very last moment and then destroy it as they leave. Cedar succeeds in creating a setting and characters which are authentic. To the viewer, the movie is claustrophobic and nerve-wrecking, that is, it is superb!
Waltz with Bashir is the manifestation of director Ari Folman’s personal search for lost memories in his role during the 1982 Lebanon War, as a 19-year-old soldier, which includes being in Beirut and the events of the Sabra and Shatila massacre. His amnesia is painstakingly shattered as he consults with his friends, an Israeli TV reporter who covered Beirut at the time, and his fellow soldiers. This is an animated feature-length documentary war movie with an extraordinary sound track. It combines classical music, 1980s music, realistic graphics, and surrealistic scenes together with illustrations similar to comics. At the very end the animation is dissolved into actual footage of the aftermath of the massacre. The film is a feast to the eyes and ears, allowing the viewer to relive the events of the young soldier and to empathize with the middle-age director, as he searches for the truth story.
Lebanon is based on the director Samuel Maoz’s personal experience as a young Israeli conscript during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The film depicts warfare as witnessed exclusively from the inside of a tank. A lone tank and an infantry platoon are dispatched to search a hostile town. The mission of the four Israeli soldiers inside is to clear an area of Lebanese personnel. The gunner has never fired the cannon in a combat situation and poor judgement calls by the crew add to the deteriorating state of the tank, heat, smoke, filth, stench, cramped quarters, equipment failure, navigational problems conflicting information and recurring quarrels—claustrophobic on purpose and relentless in intensity. Variety magazine said “Lebanon is the boldest and best of recent Israeli films based upon the Lebanon wars.”
This simple mission turns into a nightmare.
Legend or Fact? During filming, Samuel Maoz became feverish from an inexplicable foot infection. He woke up one day to find that five small pieces of shrapnel had fallen from his broken skin. Moaz is convinced that this was “the last testimony to the Lebanon War that [his] body suddenly decided to eject after 24 years.”
Taken together the three films represent a sober lesson, some would say, in the heroism and sacrifice of war; others would say, in the futility and devastation of war: you chose!
The three movies are in Hebrew with English subtitles.
Reviewed by Dolores Luber
These movies are available free from the Isaac Waldman Jewish Public Library at the JCC.
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