It’s a big challenge to set the whole of a film inside a tank but when you’re trying to convey what it was like invading Lebanon, in 1982, in an Israeli tank then it’s a good starting point. Writer-director, Samuel Moaz, makes the constraint a strength through the humanity of his (autobiographical, at least, to some extent) story, the performances and the brilliance of the set and sound design.
The grinding of the gears and metallic reverberation of the engine encases the audience in an authentic sounding soundscape and the often juddering camera, shooting the inhabitants in close up, adds to the feeling of ‘being in there’. ‘In there’ was a convincing vision of hell as it rapidly becomes decrepit as it’s ill-used by the conscripts and the walls appear to moldering as if in a Tarkovsky movie. We can see the outside, though the soldiers’ viewfinders, and the events shown are worthy of several circles of Dante’s hell.
Israel’s ‘Defence’ Force often splits opinion but there’s no doubt in my mind that its aggression contributes massively to world instability; only last week 11 where killed approaching Gaza in international waters. Moaz’s film is realist and takes no overt political position, but it’s ‘war as hell’ message – whilst commonplace – is powerfully portrayed. I think the destruction of a guy transporting chickens, and the fate of a Lebanese family, place the film firmly on the anti-Israel side (however, the opposite reading is possible).
The four soldiers in the tank are all out of their depth; one of them desperately wants his mum. And the terrible effects of war on these young man is painfully shown but so are the acts of humanity that can occur amongst degradation; one helps a prisoner to piss in a pot.
The best new film, along with A Single Man, I’ve seen so far this year so experience it in the immersive environment of the cinema while you can.