Israeli director Samuel Maoz commits his personal experiences inside a tank to celluloid in ‘Lebanon’. The movie, which is showing in competition at the Venice Film Festival, is a semi biopic based on his time as a gunner.
Aged 20 at the outset of the First Lebanon War in June 1982, Maoz remembers what it was like for him: “The war took place inside neighbourhoods and the enemy was wearing jeans so we couldn’t see the difference between soldier and civilian. The general direction was north, but that north turned off very quickly to 360 degrees. The sensation was that things got out of control and I think that’s what makes this war chaotic. From Beirut, from the end, all I remember is craziness in the eyes, madness in the air.” The film is set primarily inside a tank which is dispatched to search a town already bombed by the Israeli Air Force. Inside the tank are four men barely into their 20s whose only previous experience of warfare is shooting at barrels on training missions. Scared, worried and alone, the group struggles to retain its sense of humanity as their tank is attacked from all sides. “I lived this film, it wasn’t an idea. The idea was how to do it. It was a need, a need to unload, a need to expose the war, naked, without all the heroic stuff and the rest of the clichés. It was probably a need to forgive myself as well. I have a responsibility, my responsability was inevitable, maybe part of my destiny because it was a no-way out situation. I didn’t have a choice,” says Maoz. “Lebanon” comes one year after Ari Folman’s animated documentary “Waltz with Bashir”, which also explored the horrors of the 1982 conflict from the point of view of Israeli soldiers. Maoz says the movie is not a condemnation of Israel’s policies, but a personnal account of what he went through and of the ethical dilemmas soldiers face in similar situations across the world.