Lebanon (2009)

War wounds

For a film set almost entirely within the confines of a military tank, Lebanon is surprisingly far-reaching both in terms of its accomplishment and its impact. The recipient of the Golden Lion at the 2009 Venice Film Festival, it’s an intense, claustrophobic and remarkable tribute to the strength of humanity under extreme duress.

It’s June 1982, and Israel has embarked on their invasion of Lebanon. A platoon is dispatched to search enemy territory, but writer/director Samuel Maoz’s focus is firmly on—and, indeed, in—the tank. Hungry, tired and already war-weary, the four-man crew try to carry out their duties in an increasingly hostile environment. As they witness real human horror through the narrow focus of the tank’s gun turret, they struggle to cope with the magnitude of suffering they are helping to create.

Based on Maoz’s own experiences as a young soldier, Lebanon is a portrait of warfare on an intensely human scale. Giora Bejach’s astonishing cinematography frames the narrative inside the decrepit tank, the damaging effects of conflict are distilled down to their most basic form; four young men desperate to go home, fighting for a cause they don’t understand, with the world falling apart around them. It’s effective, moving stuff, expertly played by the young cast who showcase a terror and disbelief that’s amplified given their claustrophobic surrounding.

Lebanon is not intended as a factual dissection of the whys, wherefores and politics of the conflict, but rather as a psychological exploration of his own extreme experiences. And, as such, its an involving and thought-provoking viewing experience that leaves no doubt that casualties of war go much deeper than physical scars.

4 stars

This review was originally published in movieScope Issue #17

Director & Screenplay Samuel Maoz
Stars Oshri Cohen, Yoav Donat, Zohar Shtrauss 
Certificate 15
Distributor Metrodome Distribution
Running Time 1hr 33mins
Opened May 14