PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Reviews

Beaufort

Based on Ron Leshem's novel and directed by Joseph Cedar, Beaufort is an elegant, thoughtful war movie.


Beaufort

Director: Joseph Cedar
Cast: Oshri Cohen, Eli Altonio, Ohad Knoller, Itay Tiran, Arthur Faradjev, Itay Turgeman
Distributor: Kino
MPAA rating: N/A
Studio: Kino International
First date: 2007
US Release Date: 2008-01-18 (Limited release)
Website
Trailer
I've been hearing stories about this mountain my entire life. I had to see it.

-- Ziv (Ohad Knoller)

In Beaufort, war is endless. Even when missions are completed and troops head home, the film submits, attendant losses, memories, and regrets linger. Set almost entirely at Beaufort Castle, the 12th-century Crusaders' fort captured by Israel during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the movie lays out what's at stake for troops instructed to hold the position until they're told to abandon it.

It's 2000, and the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) is poised to leave the fort, last emblem of the 18-year war with Lebanon. In the meantime, Hezbollah shells the area daily, the Israelis noting each assault with announcements over a rudimentary PA system: "Incoming, incoming," and then, "Impact, impact," as men crouch in corners, waiting for the noise to stop. Amid the boredom, Ziv (Ohad Knoller), a.k.a. "Bomb Squad," arrives with a particular assignment, to clear a road leading to the fort of a "device." When Ziv, the expert after all, observes that the area looks "really dangerous" and suggests cancelling the operation, the 22-year-old company commander Liraz (Oshri Cohen) insists he continue: "That's his job," he sighs, weary and impatient, "disposing of bombs."

Based on Ron Leshem's novel and directed by Joseph Cedar (who served in the first Lebanon war), Beaufort is an elegant, thoughtful war movie. It uses the initial tension between Liraz and Ziv as a prism to look into ongoing troubles between Liraz and his men. Their multiple dilemmas -- which only begin with the incongruity of their orders to hold a fort the government means to give up momentarily -- have to do with compulsory service, lies to anxious parents, and shifting definitions of masculinity, national obligation, and generational identity.

Absurdities and contradictions face the men at every turn, made literal and metaphorical, via Beckettian dialogue set against a stark landscape. Looking for Liraz early on, Ziv makes his way through a series of science-fictiony underground tunnels, emerging at a guard post occupied by two men who regard him with bemusement. "Where am I?" asks Ziv. "As far as you can get," comes the answer, "If you're here, you're here by mistake." Ziv plays along, asking the guard if he's also here by mistake or wants to be here. "I wanted to be here," smiles the young guard from beneath his helmet and armor. "That's the mistake!"

When Ziv stumbles on a dummy guard -- one of six stuffed "spooks" set along the fort's walls in order to show the enemy the place is populated and "attract fire" -- you comprehend the company's sense of desolation and abandonment. The medic Koris (Itay Tiran), increasingly angry at the lack of clarity, argues with Liraz over their functions within a larger system. He feels like one of those "spooks," set up as a target. Hezbollah knows exactly where you are, he says. "You're here so they can see you." Liraz dismisses the argument, but the film goes on to illustrate it, never showing the enemy, only the helplessness of the targets, listening and waiting, always waiting -- for orders or mortars.

The circumstances only become more illogical as the fort's days are officially (but secretly) numbered. Instructed to start getting rid of equipment, but not informed which elements are "vital" or not, the men begin a haphazard process of junking or sending out materiel even as they keep watch over the site. As Liraz tries to keep control of the process, he contends with the men's frustrations, conversations punctuated by the sounds of mortars landing, occasional fires, and inevitable deaths. They question Liraz's longtime friend Oshri (Eli Eltonyo), wondering about the commander's romantic history, his decision to carry his weapon even when on leave, or his persistent emotional distance.

They can't figure him, and the film doesn't grant you much more access to Liraz's thinking. As a television reporter lays out Hezbollah's apparent strategy (to "cause the IDF losses so that the retreat planned in a few months will appear as the flight of a beaten, defeated Israeli army"), Liraz stands apart from his men, crowded around the TV, the camera pulling out to underscore his difference and isolation, as well as his inability to make a decision -- by decree of the command structure. When he meets with his commanders, they tell him to keep on, though they have "no solution" for the enemy's recent change in tactic, to target the guard posts with advanced anti-tank missiles. Furious at the idea that the men are supposed to wait to be attacked and have no part in retribution, or any sort of fighting, Liraz asserts, "We've become an army of pussies." The commanders tell him it's too bad, but he's not involved in the broader decision-making process. "This discussion is at outpost level," says one. "Other plans" will be made elsewhere.

Liraz's visible frustration here doesn’t make him noble, or even reveal his own moral or emotional inclinations. In fact, the movie shows him repeatedly making wrong choices or risking men by his indecision. Still, Beaufort doesn't judge his actions as much as it situates him, as a victim and a product of a system that has been in place for thousands of years, a system the castle represents and also parodies. When Liraz talks with an older soldier, a participant in the 1982 war, "the conquest battle," he yearns for a sign of a better time, when fighting was meaningful, when "there was an enemy, a goal, a purpose." Back then, he imagines, was not like now, "Not like dying in a guard post and being called cannon fodder, being told it's worthless, 'We're leaving in a minute anyway.'" The veteran looks back at Liraz sadly: "They said the same thing then, too."

Punctuated by claustrophobic shots of the men making their way through fortified tunnels or hunkered into their bunks, Beaufort offers little in the way of "action." It is, instead, a film about pain and delay, brief intimacy and enduring loss. The war -- all war -- is about waiting -- for strategic decisions to be made, for missiles to hit, for vaguely defined missions to end. It's not that the war is lost, but that it can never be won.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.