I'm blogging this movie here today because this month sees the 39th Anniversary of the Munich Massacre & because I recently both watched & debated it's merits with someone ... not because I think the movie is great, I don't!!!
This film had received such positive reviews and was nominated for five Academy Awards: ~ Best Picture, Best Director (Spielberg), Best Adapted Screenplay (Tony Kushner and Eric Roth), Best Film Editing (Michael Kahn) and Best Original Score (John Williams). Steven Spielberg directed & I have long considered him to be one of the finest movie makers of my time. Almost every film of his that I have seen spellbound … "Schindler's List", "The Colour Purple", “E.T” … okay so I was 4!
Because in 1972 there was a Massive Massacre at the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. Israeli coaches and athletes were kidnapped, held hostage & slain by ‘Black September’, a leftist guerrilla group supporting & headed by Palestinian terrorists.
This film is based on the book ‘Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team’ by Canadian journalist George Jonas, which in turn was based on the story of Yuval Aviv, who claims to have been a Mossad agent in the 1970’s. In the book, Aviv's story is told through the life of a protagonist called "Avner", Spielberg retains him in the movie, which shows how a squad of assassins, led by Avner, (Eric Bana), tracks down and assasinates a list of Black September members thought to be responsible for the Munich murders. So, it is a Dark tale … yet, quite captivating & I loved the ‘grainy’ camerawork & ‘painterly’ atmosphere. All bode well & I enthusiastically engaged the DVD … I was disappointed with the movie, though & here’s why!
If Steven Spielberg had made a fictional movie about the psychological disintegration of a revenge assassin, that would have been fine. Instead, he did just that, but decided to call this fiction "Munich" and root it in a real historical event: ~ that 1972 massacre by Palestinian terrorists of those 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games. Once you've done that ~ evoked the killing of innocents who, but for Palestinian murderers, would today be Israeli heroes ~ you have an obligation to get the story right and not to use the victims as props for any political agenda, let alone for the political agenda of those who killed them.
The only true part of the story is the few minutes spent on the massacre. The rest is invention, as Spielberg delicately puts it in the opening credits, a Movie that is "inspired by real events” !!! Inspired by real events? Rubbish. Inspired by Tony Kushner's belief that the founding of Israel was a "historical, moral, political calamity" for the Jewish people morelike!
It is an axiom of filmmaking that you can only care about a character you know. In "Munich," the Israeli athletes are both theatrical & historical extras, stick figures as in a Lowry painting. Spielberg dutifully gives us their names ~ Spielberg's List ~ and nothing more …. no history, no context, no relationships, nothing. They are there to die. Their sole purpose in this movie as in history. Unknowns.
The Palestinians who plan the massacre and are hunted down by Israel are given ~ with the concision of the gifted cinematic craftsman ~ texture, humanity, depth & history. The first Palestinian we meet is an erudite translator of poetry, giving a public reading, then acting kindly toward an Italian shopkeeper ~ before he is shot in cold blood by ‘Jews’.
Then there is the elderly PLO member who dotes on his 7 year old daughter before being blown to bits. Not one of these plotters is shown plotting Munich, or any other attrocity for that matter. They are shown in the full flower of their humanity, savagely extinguished by ‘Jews’. How does this make for a ‘historical’ re-enactment??
But, the most shocking Israeli brutality involves a Dutch prostitute ~ apolitical, beautiful, pathetic ~ shot to death, naked, of course, by now half-crazed Israelis settling private business. Settling up the Israeli way, I suppose!!
There are some moments in the movie where the 'assasins' humanity is shown, especially through the human promptings of 'Avner', the central character. But, they are not enough to redeem it's anti Israeli slant.
Even more egregious than the manipulation by character is the propaganda by dialogue. The Palestinian case is made forthrightly … The Jews stole our land and we're going to kill any Israeli we can to get it back. Those who are supposedly making the Israeli case say . . . the same thing!!
The hero's mother, the pitiless committed Zionist, says: "We needed the refuge. We seized it. Whatever it takes to secure it. "Then she ticks off members of their family lost in the Holocaust. Spielberg makes the Holocaust the engine of Zionism and its justification. Which, of course, is the Palestinian narrative, not the truth. Indeed, it is the classic narrative for anti-Zionists, like Adhmadinejhad, the president of Iran, who says that Israel should be wiped off the map. And why not? If Israel is nothing more than Europe's guilt trip for the Holocaust, then why should Muslims have to suffer a Jewish state in their midst?
This is soooo wrong. And for a Jew to perpetrate this????
It takes Hollywood to give flesh to the argument of a radical anti-Semitic Iranian. Jewish history did not begin with ‘Kristallnacht'. The first Zionist Congress occurred in 1897. The Jews fought for and received recognition for the right to establish a "Jewish national home in Palestine" from Britain in 1917 and from the League of Nations in 1922, two decades before the Holocaust.
And, the Jewish claim is far more ancient than that. If the Jews were just seeking a nice refuge, why did they choose the malarial swamps and barren sand dunes of 19th-century Palestine? Because Israel is their ancestral home, site of the first two Jewish commonwealths for a thousand years ~ long before Arabs, long before Islam, long before the Holocaust!!
The Roman destructions of 70BCE and 135 CE extinguished Jewish independence, but never the Jewish claim and vow to return home. The Jews' miraculous return 2,000 years later was tragic because others had settled in the land and presented a competing claim. Which is why Jews have for three generations offered to partition Israel, wrongly in my opinion, but we are nothing if not humane. The Arab response in every generation has been rejection, war and terrorism.
Munich, the massacre, had only modest success in launching the Palestinian cause with the blood of 11 Jews. "Munich," the movie, has now made that success much more complete 39 years later. No longer is it crude, grainy TV propaganda. "Munich" now enjoys high cinematic production values and the imprimatur of Steven Spielberg, no less, carrying the original terrorists' intended message to the world. This is hardly surprising, considering that "Munich's" , the movie’s, case for the moral bankruptcy of the Israeli cause ~ not just the campaign to assassinate Munich's planners but the entire enterprise of Israel itself ~ is so thorough that the movie concludes with the lead Mossad assassin, Avner, so seared by his experience, that he abandons Israel forever.
Where does this hero resettle? “In the only true home for the Jew of conscience, sensitivity and authenticity: Brooklyn." The abode of Liberal Jews, like Spielberg & others who ply their trade in Hollywood. How does this betrayal of true history benefit Israel or history??? Or Zionism?? It can only play into the hands of the ‘anti-semetic Zionists’ in these days of resurgent & rampant & rising anti-semitism. I believe that this film raises not just Jewish issues but societal issues.
And, I’m not sorry I watched it .... I love movies. But, please if it is fact or intelligence you are looking for, then don’t waste your time with this movie. Shame on you Spielberg!!