Opening 14 Oct 2010
A fine summer day in 1982 finds four young men trapped in an armoured tank, connected to the outside world only by the voice of their commander coming through a loudspeaker. It’s the first day of the Lebanon war. The tank is adorned with the slogan “Men are made of steel but tanks are only made of metal”. How ironic can you get? But the young Israelis Shmulik, Assi, Herzl and Yigal are not ironic, they are tired, hungry and dirty; they don’t know where they are and why they are there. They have no experience of war. Their only training was shooting at petrol-filled drums enjoying the spectacular but harmless explosions. Now they not only have to target a lorry transporting chickens but are also aiming at screaming women and children in order to kill the enemy. To their horror they have to share the claustrophobic space with a dead comrade, a so-called “angel”, until a helicopter can take him out of the area. Their nervousness is increasing, and they start to argue amongst each other. Most of the action is filmed through the view finder of the tank’s telescope, which isolates and enlarges the target but also makes you aware of the limited view it offers. What an eerie experience! It’s a feeling of being sheltered but helplessly trapped at the same time. After a missile hits the tank all the instruments are damaged and Assi, the officer in charge, starts showing signs of madness. The tension rises until sheer fear and survival instincts take over.
This is a very intense film by Samuel Maoz for which he received The Golden Lion Award 2009 in Venice. “On June 6, 1982, quarter past six in the morning, I killed a man for the first time of my life”, are his words. He was just twenty years old at the time, and only after twenty-five years was he able to make this very personal and disturbing film, freeing him from the post-traumata. The stress when actually having to kill and seeing comrades being fatally wounded seems to be underestimated. I would recommend that the film should be shown to teenagers who are fascinated and entertained by electronic war games. It may also help military staff in realizing the need for more after-war psychological care. Germany is no longer spared and has to cope with returning soldiers from Afghanistan where humanitarian help has turned into fighting a war. (Birgit Schrumpf)