Saturday, January 21, 2006

Ready when you are, Mr. Spielberg.

Could someone please explain, in simple words, what the movie Munich is trying to say? It spent two-and-a-half hours trying to bash its message into my cranium, to no avail. Sure, I got the basic points about self-identity ("home") and the cyclical nature of revenge, but there's got to be more than that, surely?

Steven Spielberg tends to make profound movies about profound subjects (War, Holocaust, Racism) and jolly movies about silly things (aliens, dinosaurs, man-eating sharks, possessed petrol tankers). But despite the grim subject material, Munich is remarkable for being actually quite easy to watch, and the violence all seems to occur at arm's length. Given the limitlessly contentious nature of the subject, the movie's morality wisely leaves space for the audience to pick its own heroes and villains, but such equivocation - while laudable on one level - leaves the authorial voice so much the weaker. It's not that I'm expecting answers, just that I'm grappling to understand what this movie thinks the questions are.

Most perplexing of all is the device of having the protagonist, Abner, frequently endure "flashbacks" of the Munich massacre, despite not having been there. This leads to a giddy, spectacular and (unfortunately) utterly bewildering denoument as we watch the final gruesome moments of the victims unfold in Abner's head, while he has sex with his wife...? Okay, I can make the link between orgasms and explosions, but I'm fairly sure that's not what The Big Berg's getting at. He's cleverer than that.

I wish I was.

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