Over the past few years, there seems to have been a surge of films dealing with the Israeli-Lebanese conflict, namely the critically acclaimed Beaufort and Waltz with Bashir. And now Lebanon joins the ranks.
Lebanon tells the story of a four-man Israeli tank crew during the first day of the 1982 Lebanon War. The film is based on writer/director Samuel Maoz’s experiences as a young Israeli soldier during the war.
The film is somewhat reminiscent of Das Boot and Memphis Belle. With the exception of the opening and closing shots, the entire film takes place within the confines of a tank with our four lead characters. They are occasionally accompanied by visitors—a paratrooper commander, a Lebanese captive, a rebel resistance fighter, and even the dead body of a fallen comrade.
Lebanon paints a very real portrait of real people, regular people in a terrible situation. There are no heroes. There is no glory. There are just four scared kids thrust into a war they didn’t sign up for and not knowing what to expect. Looking through the scope, they witness countless casualties—soldiers, civilians, men, women and children—no one is spared. The startling reality sets in that they are indeed caught in the middle of a bloody conflict. They see comrades killed and they kill to stay alive. They are faced with the most difficult test anyone will ever have to face, a test of survival. In the end, there are no winners or losers, only survivors.
In the beginning of the film, our four main characters are strangers to each other. Over the course of the day, they share with each other stories from back home, stories of their childhood, stories of their first sexual encounters. By the end of the day, they know each other’s most intimate secrets. They share a bond that could not be forged under any other circumstances.
Lebanon premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2009 where it received the Golden Lion award. It was recently released on DVD in the United States. It’s a shame it did not get the wide US theatrical release that it deserved.