In 2007, filmmaker Samuel Moaz returned to his experiences as a 20-year-old Israeli soldier during the First Lebanon War in 1982 to write the script for Lebanon. He describes it as being written “straight from my gut,” adding that “scripting conventions…did not concern me. What remained fresh and bleeding was the emotional memory. I wrote what I felt.” Moaz’ feelings and recall were so intense that he “spit out [his] first draft in three weeks.”
Although seeing war through the interactions of a small band of soldiers is a familiar genre, there is little doubt that Lebanon is not a by-the-numbers film; without Moaz’ own traumatic memories (he killed a man early in the war), it would lack the immediacy and power that shadow the action.
Almost the entire story unfolds from inside a tank. The actors prepared by being asked to remain inside a dark and overheated metal container, and had to withstand the noise of an iron bar striking the container to simulate gunfire hitting their shelter.
It’s a grueling experience, and not for claustrophobes (you will feel you are packed in the tank yourself), but the film transcends its genre to deliver a real wallop. Direction and cast are excellent, and make their points with a minimum of show.