Al Qaeda texting her handler. Shows at Majestic City, 1/3:30/7, methinks
Went to see Munich on Friday and (sans the last half-hour) it’s great. Munich, to me, captures terrorism better than anything else because everyone involved looks shit scared. Most movies choreograph violence to the point that the conclusion seems foregone and obvious, the moral victor clear. In Munich the scenes of violence are an absolute scramble of asses, elbows and AK-47s. Everyone looks very normal and their depravity is done for distant reasons that disappear in the heat of the moment. I think it captures terrorism because people are killed while they sleep, make love, shop for groceries, or answer the phone. In between the terrorists/assassins do the same human things, and slowly the paranoia seeps in as every mundane moment becomes infused with deadly potential. Munich, in particular the hollowed out eyes of Eric Bana, humanizes terrorism to a point beyond idealogy. It is a simply a bunch of people dead and a bunch of people scared.
Portrayal of the Massacre
The first scenes of the movie are some of the most interesting, to me, cinematically. I think Spielberg cobbled together actual news footage from the time, but what I found most interesting was the weird meta-experience of watching TV screens on a movie screens, literally a screen within a screen. Our experience of the fictionalized event was partly mediated through the media, with occasional glimpses on the inside. Rather than a simple chain of facts, it’s a confusing and disorienting jumble of intepretation and reintepretation. It reminded me of September 11th in that my immediate experience was a compulsive and repetive checking of electronic media for some way to understand what the fuck was going on.
Later there were more first-hand images of the massacre, the most memorable being an Israeli athelete, shot clean through the mouth, his cheek red and open. These images were seen as flashbacks Avner (Eric Bana) was having, or nightmares even. They were horrific, the athletes running away in their underwear, being shot through the chest.
I saw the movie with an Al Qaeda operative who was like ‘but they kill Palestinians everyday’ but I still think it’s just awful that atheletes were killed at the one time nations of the world are supposed to get together and act civilized. Terrorism just isn’t cool and I don’t think it is ever justified. Of course, the film doesn’t get into that.
Most movies portray violence as something that makes sense, whereas the reality is much more confused and messy. The logistical work of planning an actual hit is painstaking and dull and the killings are quite obviously murder. It’s interesting how the overarching moral justifications disappear in that moment. All the killers seem very normal and they’re all following orders they don’t really understand. Avner, more than anything, portrays the brutal normalcy of violence, as he doesn’t look or act like a soldier. He’s a father and a cook, but by the end he’s a broken man.
The ‘fun’ parts of the film would be the meetings and setting up of the original assassinations, though it mostly boils down to a lot of waiting. Near the end the small band of Israeli operatives finds themselves hunted as well, and sharing a safehouse with PLO operatives and bumping into wily CIA and KGB agents. They inhabit a strange universe where the ordinary facts of life – housing, walking the street – are their battlefield and that imbues everything with a deep sense of paranoia. At one point Avner strips everything electrical in his room and ends up sleeping in the closet. They are the worst sort of soldiers who ‘shit where they eat’, if you will. They stay in the same hotels as their targets, walk the same streets and leave in constant fear of a death that will come at the most mundane moment.
That is, in many ways, the greatest threat of terrorism. Not the quantity of death, but the fact that there is nothing holy and no place safe. The last half-hour was, IMHO, expendable, but there was one scene where Avner’s face was the absolute picture of terrorism. He was sleeping with his wife, but he can’t get the images out of his head. He just looks all hollow and helpless, drenched in a cold, impotent sweat.
The smell of man makes me angry so I can’t see myself sleeping with them, but on a purely aesthetic level, Eric Bana is a kind of hot, and the playboy terrorist Ali Hassan Salameh is a motherfucking pimp. For one thing he’s like 8 feet tall in the movie and he wears aviators at night. In real life he was apparently married to the Lebanese Miss Universe until he died in a car bomb.
Cinematography and Costumes
I really liked how the movie looked old, though that may’ve been the MC projectors. Also, Eric Bana’s tie was perpetually short and everybody dressed like 1970s geeks, that is, modern hipsters. I always think that 70s gear makes everyone look hapless, as I can’t take seriously a man who wears pants that tight. All in all, however, the scenes look absolutely convincing and are deeply situated in a time and place.
The only downside of the film was that it was a bit too long, and the last scenes were kinda unnecessary. I was also really hungry, so that might got in the way. I highly recommend watching it though. They also serve booze at the theatre, which is great. Not in an alcoholic sense, just aesthetically.