Sunday, February 05, 2006


I saw "Munich" tonight. Before going in, I was prepared to be furious at Spielberg for positing a "moral equivalence" between the counter-terrorist acts of the Israelis and terrorists acts of the Palestinians, as some very smart critics have been furious (e.g., Leon Weiseltier, in "The New Republic"). I don't think Spielberg's guilty of this, though, at least, not in a serious way (there are two or three scenes that trouble me, but I think they'll be read in any way that viewers want, which in itself is a problem.) And, I enjoyed much of the movie, in the way I'd enjoy any Hollywood thriller. But, that IS what this flick is, a Hollywood thriller.

Where Spielberg goes wrong is in letting the machinery of Hollywood plot making--with it's standard means of creating suspense and building tension--take over, making the politics of the film impossible to judge, either for accuracy or philosophy. So, no. I wasn't offended. I was mildly entertained, even. But, I was neither enlightened nor given fresh reason to think.

That's irritating, but little more.

Note: I re-read Leon Weiseltier's article after writing this post. Here's the last sentence in his piece:

" Munich prefers a discussion of counterterrorism to a discussion of terrorism; or it thinks that they are the same discussion. This is an opinion that only people who are not responsible for the safety of other people can hold."

I do think this is a serious indictment of this film's politics and philosophy, as well as a reproach to the blathering idiocies of both American/European utopians on the left and antisemitic opportunists on both the left and the right.

Here is the link to Weiseltier:

1 comment:

Signore Direttore said...

As a cinematic experience, Munich was a tour de force of operatic camera work. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. I had trouble with a few scenes particularly toward the end, but as always with Speilberg and Kaminski, they've earned whatever conceits they choose to indulge by the sheer virtuosity in the greater scheme of the film.

The following provides some affirming background information on your label of of Munich as a "movie".

In a telephone interview with American Cinematographer, Kaminski reflects that the task of re-creating historical events offers a cinematographer a range of possible approaches. Whereas Schindler’s List was characterized by a sober mise-en-scène and stark black-and-white imagery (see AC Jan. ’94), the approach for Munich was more “distanced,” says Kaminski. “We wanted this to feel like a movie, bigger than life. Our goal was not to simply re-create reality. The subject matter is too fresh, too relevant to what’s happening today. We wanted a bit of distance and didn’t want viewers to think we were doing a propaganda movie. Whereas there’s a clear knowledge of who the bad guys are in Schindler’s List, this film is more ambiguous, more complex. We didn’t want to make a simple moral statement.”