Lebanon, winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and representative of a new vein in Israeli cinema alongside the excellent Waltz with Bashir, is in a tricky position. A highly personal account of the director’s experience of the Lebanon war, it makes no claim to impartiality (and nor should it need to). Consequently, it has attracted some controversy, both from those who claim it is a damning portrayal of the Israeli army, and those who decry the film as exaggerated and untrue. In reality, the film is a visceral and claustrophobic condemnation of war in general, rather than any specific conflict. Phalangists and phosphorous aside, it could be set in any modern war.
Filmed entirely in the tight confines of an Israeli tank, the film follows a tank crew through a day in Lebanon. We sit in on tense conversations between the crew, receive icy radio orders from afar and stare down the tanks sights with Shliumik, the gunner and almost silent protagonist. It’s not war, but rather a perception of war distorted through a periscope- the outside world is a fiction.
At times, the film seems on the brink of degenerating into horror. The crew are uniformly out of their depth, unaware of the politics of the conflict, and scared. The tanks interior steadily deteriorates with the situation, and the final panic stricken scenes suggest a nightmare.
More complete explorations of the Lebanon war exist, and the film is by no means unique in its portrayal of conflict. But Moaz has nevertheless crafted a harrowing slice of fear. To view the film as anything more would be to put words in its mouth.