John McCarthy on "Lebanon"

A fine new movie, "Lebanon," the winner of the 2009 Venice Film Festival, has just been released in the States.  John McCarthy, in a review on our online Culture section, calls it "bracing," "operatic" and "vivid."  His review begins:

Wolfgang Petersen’s 1981 submarine thriller "Das Boot" is one obvious touchstone for Lebanon, a gripping war film by Israeli director Samuel Maoz in which the camera’s point of view is largely restricted to the inside of an Israeli Army tank.

Among its remarkable traits, "Das Boot" compelled American audiences to care about World War II’s bad guys—some aboard the U-Boat were ardent Nazis, others not. Sympathizing with the rank-and-file soldiers inside Lebanon’s military conveyance is at once easier and more complicated because the conflict they’re engaged in doesn’t lend itself to tidy demarcations such as good versus evil, us versus them. War itself is the enemy.  

Winner of the top prize at the 2009 Venice Film Festival, "Lebanon" is a bracing addition to the canon of anti-war films. No matter how one parses Middle East politics, it is difficult to emerge from "Lebanon" without feeling that the horrors of war overwhelm all other considerations. 

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Read the rest here.

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7 years 9 months ago
Sounds like a great movie; I look forward to seeing it.

While I respect the idealism of filmmakers who make antiwar pictures, I wonder whether the only thing that they accomplish is changing the public sentiment of powerful free nations, yet have no impact on those nations that not only don't allow such movies to be viewed by the public but even disseminate pro-war propaganda; wiith a net result of empowerment of aggressive totalitarian regimes and a weakening of peacekeeping nations.

No one can deny that the US's military might (including that might through Israel) - it's ability to wage war - is one of the most important, if not the most important, peacekeeping force in the world, and yet this fact is ignored in most war pictures today (cf. the war movies of the WWII era).  Today's filmakers present a naive perspective of war: that war serves no good purpose; that the US is the evil perpetrator in all wars; and suggesting that reducing US military strength will somehow end all war. 

Yes, war sucks, and peace-loving nations should do what they can to limit, even eradicate war.  But turning US public sentiment against war while ignoring its vast complexity and impact on life beyond the soldiers who are fighting it actually has the potential to do more harm than good  to the world.  For example, what will the US do when military recruitment falls because of a negative portrayal of soldiering?  We'll have a military filled with unwilling drafted soldiers.
Jim McCrea
7 years 9 months ago
"We'll have a military filled with unwilling drafted soldiers."


Compare the results of their service in WWII to the "volunteer army" in Iraq/Afghanistan!
7 years 9 months ago
@JimMcCrea -

Yeah, and look at the results in Viet Nam.  I didn't mean to imply that every war we enter into is necessary and justified.  But there have been and will be wars that are, and to disseminate pacifist propaganda without acknowledging that fact can't really have much of a positive effect on our military.  

How many anti-war films have been produced since Viet Nam and how many that paid tribute to US victories?  Perhaps that's why the military is struggling to meet recruitment goals and is having poor results in combat.  What might the result have been in WWII if anti-war films were the norm at that time?

We ignore reality at our own peril. 

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