The emotional traumatic experiences of four young Israeli soldiers during the first 24 hours of the 1982 Lebanon War are the centerpiece of Samuel Maoz’s feature film “Lebanon.” Maoz based the film on his own experiences as a tank gunner during the war and centers the entire film on the events that occur in and around an Israeli war tank.
Shmuel, Assi, Herzl, and Yigal are the four young twentysomething men that the film focuses on. None of them has fought in a war beforehand. Their initial 24 hours in the war was supposed to be easy – they just have to clean up a Lebanese town that was already bombed by the Israeli Air Force and then proceed to a meeting point. However, what starts out as an easy assignment turns quickly into a nightmare. The wide-eyed, innocent Israeli soldiers have to quickly face the harsh realities of war and make life or death decisions.
Maoz uses the technique of limiting the viewer to the claustrophobic confines of the iron tank. The only outside shots seen in the film are through the gunner’s periscope. Maoz also uses a unique sound design that captures the feeling of being trapped inside the tank. By using these cinematic techniques, the viewer is able to gain an understanding of what the characters went through and how the characters felt during these first hours of the war.
“Lebanon” is a worthwhile and important film to see. Through Maoz’s direction and screenplay, the viewer is able to focus in on the human element that’s entrapped and encased in the horrors of war. The viewer just has to take a glimpse of the characters’ eyes or hear the utterance of the characters’ words in order to understand the anxiety and fear that the characters face in this dynamic and moving film.