Sunday, January 29, 2006

Munich (2005)

This would make a fine double feature with A Short Film About Killing, and Spielberg seems to subscribe to the quote about Cain as much as Kieslowski. It's a strong and mature work that finds Spielberg trafficking in weighty moral issues without clear answers. To his credit, he doesn't pretend to offer solutions; indeed, the main idea one goes away with is that there is no solution to be found and the cycle of revenge will continue to perpetuate itself. The film occasionally threatens to buckle underneath the weight of its issues, but thankfully it never does. Credit this to the strong shoulders of the international ensemble cast (nice to see Mathieu Amalric in something not directed by Arnaud Desplechin) and the careful direction of Spielberg. The latter, for the most part, appears to have left most of his more commercial failings elsewhere for this film (read: the father-issues that overwhelm most of Spielberg's work are tangential here). He does overshoot a couple of targets -- in particular, one already-infamous montage (which, in honor of Tom Tomorrow, I will call "anagrams onward!") should have been cut, or at least seriously rethought -- but he's mostly confined his more bombastic instincts to the violent scenes that pepper the film. The violence here is gruesome, confused and unpleasant, which is of course as it should be. The handling of the assassination scenes, though, speaks to one of the film's major themes -- in the chaotic attempts at leveling, we can see the miasma of ideology at work. Pointedly, the least soul-sick participant in the film is Amalric, who works only for money and at one point calls himself "ideologically promiscuous." Any attempt here to stick to one's guns leads to disaster. As Golda Meir says in the film, "Every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values"; the problem here is that the wrong compromises are being made. As the film winds on and guilt and paranoia take hold, it becomes clear that all the bloodshed and violence come from a simple impulse, that of wanting a place to call home. Eric Bana's Avner meets an articulate, angry Palestinean who talks about his people as a people displaced, without anywhere to go; meanwhile, Bana's mother talks about the glory of Israel as a place (the only place) to be "a Jew among Jews." The end of the film, though, has Bana not in Israel but fleeing to New York. In trying to secure a home for his countrymen, he has sacrificed his own. And if we understand "home" to mean a concept that confers a sense of safety and comfort, then he has been unable to secure that for anyone else. So what's the answer? Where is home? Where, indeed.

Grade: B


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home