REVIEW – Lebanon (2009)

Videovista have my review of Samuel Maoz’s Lebanon.

While I thought the film very fine to look at, I was intensely annoyed not only by the under-written and overly pretentious script.  To frame contemporary warfare as a theatre for psychological self-destruction is not only a terrible cliche (one thoughtlessly repeated by the thoughtless Hurt Locker) it is also politically suspect.  My reason for this sentiment is beautifully expounded in a paper that appears in the Summer 2010 issue of Foundation.

In “Hollywood and the Imperial Gothic”, Johan Hoglund draws upon the concept of ‘Imperial Gothic’ first laid out by Paul Brantlinger in his book The Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830-1914 (1988).  The idea behind the Imperial Gothic is that narratives that deal with the end of an imperial civilisation do not actively weaken or subvert that civilisation.  Instead, they serve to bolster it by creating in the public’s mind further reasons for ‘cracking down’ or ‘surging’ against enemies either real or imagined.  Works like Maoz’s Lebanon and Folman’s Waltz with Bashir are essentially works of Israeli Imperial Gothic.

Indeed, by suggesting that Israel’s wars with Lebanon are places where young IDF soldiers go to lose their minds, films such as Folman and Maoz’s are lending credence to the idea that Israel must be tough in its dealings with Lebanon.  For if war with Lebanon is such a terrifying prospect then it follows that any anti-Israeli activity originating in Lebanon must be met with massive retaliatory force, preferably in the shape of air strikes.