Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Get behind me now, any way
Beaufort is an Israeli film that delves into the psyche of the IDF soldier -- his quotidienne existence, his desires, his relation (or lack there of) to the Israeli cause. Most of the young men depicted in this film, it seems, are completing their service as required of them by the state of Israel. That said, their situations are much different from the religious, Zionist oriented characters in Time of Favor. Lofty ideals, religious extremism, heroic glorification, all of this seems beside the point in this gritty examination of the mundane terror that is war. Stationed inside a moutain fortress in Lebanese territory, Beaufort Castle, the characters are mostly concerned with their proximity to discharge. They long for home. This desire somes as no shock, for who, in their right mind, feels comfortable on the battlefield? However, the coneptual reasons for the soldiers' disenchantment are more complex and speak not only to the contemporary conflict in Palestine/Israel, but also to the US presence in the Middle East.
Early in the film, we get a sense that none of the characters have a vested interest in any sort of cause. They are jaded, cynical, and unsentimental regarding their allegiance to the state of Israel. Such ennui, I woul argue, stems from their participation in a conflict that seems indefinite; the fighting has been going on for generations, and these men see no end in sight. At the beginning, while keeping watch, one soldier says to another that their children will one day occupy the same post at this very same castle when they grow up. Another chimes in with the naive notion that their children will visit Beaufort as tourists, not as occupiers. No one is convinced, least of all the viewer. In addition to the agony of not knowing how long a war may last, some of the soldiers in Beaufort lament the fact that they have no concept of a specific enemy. One young man suggests that there may be an order from higher up not to conquer. Listlessness ensues. The men want for purpose.
The parallel between such conditions and our current conflict in Iraq are evident. Weren't we supposed to be in and out like Desert Storm? Have we, too, learned to accept "at war" as our nation's natural and indefinite state? It's been so long, some probably don't even think about it. I don't wake up and think, here we are, at war another day. I have to watch TV or look at a newspaper to remember. These confused, embittered characters in Beaufort can serve as warnings, reflections of American soldiers. Do we deploy troops who know nothing of their cause? Worse, do we deploy troops equipped with no more than the knowledge available to the average American; that poor, uninformed, reactionary soul who believes we are over there fighting some conglomerate bogey man of Saddam-bin-Laden-Al Qaeda proportion? All wars are too complicated, too political and bureaucratic to be grasped in full by just anyone. It's easier, I suppose, to use fear and sensationalism to create a facile conflict that everyone can understand and jump behind.
**Image: Beaufort Castle, 2007.