Tuesday, December 30, 2008

BEAUFORT (Joseph Cedar, 2007, Israel) Through the stone catacombs of an abattoir, humanity’s violent history repeats itself as young men fight, die, and kill for abstract ideas and fantasy, a territorial war that shall never end as long as murderers are in charge of the world. BEAUFORT is a metaphor for the futility and insanity of all holy wars, its maddening corridors a journey to nowhere, the young soldiers infused with death and glory…but just wanting, deep down inside, to go home. Director Joseph Cedar doesn’t preach or wax political; instead, he focuses his narrative intimately upon these sullen boys, allowing us to experience their fear and horror, their anger and resentment at being assigned to this forsaken outpost behind enemy lines. The whirring blades of a helicopter cut the morning air, dropping from the sky like some alien invader amid the rubble of an ancient fortress, and Cedar introduces us to a new arrival: the bomb expert, recruited to clear the road, the umbilical cord to the womb of their motherland. We are allowed a brief emotional investment with the character and insight into his interpersonal relationships with the dismal soldiers, whose moral is mirrored in the lifeless plastic mannequins that guard the cement barriers at night; months of training result in an explosive concussion, a human being reduced, in seconds, to shattered bone and torn sinew. The Hezbollah are invisible, never seen, lurking like spirits in the ethereal mist, whose presence is unknown until a violent mortar and rocket attack. Though we are not allowed empathy for the attackers, neither are they judged or critiqued: it is what it is…. endless war and death. The palpable fear soon becomes a dark virulent mass, suffocating the soldiers who are left behind to stand guard upon a mountain of explosives, and here moral boundaries are crossed and instinct rules, where the beast conquers reason, and humanity is reduced to the Stone Age. But the survivors must question their loyalty to ideas of violence and absurd religiosity, and a government who uses them as disposable tools to accomplish its goals by quashing their freedom. A prescient concern for all people that transcends religion, politics, culture, and social strata…everywhere. (B-)

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