In a manly man movie, it’s the women characters of Munich movie that hold the key to unlock it’s secrets. Allow me to illustrate with a few examples.
Towards the end of the movie, Avner goes to see his mother. He is troubled and torment is apparant on his face. “Do you want to know what I did for the mossad?” Avner asks his mother. She responds with a no, and proceeds to tell him about her own agony, having survived the holocaust, lost her whole entire family and arrived in Jerusalem with a renewed hope for a better future. As a mother myself, I found this scene the most disturbing in the movie. I felt that Avner’s mother has betrayed her son. Ignoring his pain because her pain was far greater. Yet her son is right there, right in front of her, clearly in pain, clearly in need of comforting. Yet she tells him to suck it up, be a man, be a hero.
But, the women of Munich movie are not all Avner’s mother. Thank god!
I saw her first in the fantastic “Red Satin” movie. Where she plays a bored house wife and mother of a teenage daughter, living in repressive Tunisia. One day she discovers the world of belly dancing and her life is changed forever. A fantastic movie of women’s empowerment and self discovery. If you haven’t seen it yet, I would highly recommend it.
Then I saw her the second time in the epic “Bab el Shams” – gate to the Sun. The marvelous historical account that tells the story of the Palestinian people though the complex multi generational individual stories of ordinary individuals placed in extreme historical moment. In Bab el Shams, Hiam plays the tyrannical mother in law.
Then I saw her again in Paradise Now which I reviewed a while back
Where Hiam plays the role of Saeed’s mom and portrays with enormous dignity the quiet desperation of a Palestinian widow, living under occupation trying to the best of her abilities to keep her family going. Her performance in Paradise Now was so authentic you forget that she is an actress.
Finally, she plays a minor role in the movie Munich. A very minor role. She is the wife of a Palestinian official about to be assassinated. We see her on screen for maybe a few minutes.
I remember her from the Israeli TV series “Florentine”, which I watched occasionally while living in Israel. The show was/ is (I have no idea if it’s still running or not) about a group of young Israeli people living in a poor neighborhood in Tel Aviv going through generational angst and alienation. The show caused a huge uproar in Israel because it featured the first gay character on Israeli TV. I remember the show not because of the gay character, but rather because of a single episode where Ayelet’s character falls in love with a dark and handsome Palestinian man. Social pressures mount on Ayelet to break off the relationship. In the ending scene, of that episode,Ayelet’s character is sitting in car alone and crying. A moment of crushing pain, it was inevitable that it would end like that. I am not a big fan of Ayelet, but her performance in that single episode is stuck in my mind till this day. She was so real and honest, I could almost swear she wasn’t acting.
Like Hiam, Ayelet has a minor role in the movie Munich. She plays the wife of the lead Israeli assassin. We see her with a baby. We see her making love to her husband and having wife like conversations with the main character in the movie. Not a big deal.
It is these two women that symbolize what I appreciated about Munich. I was surprised with how authentic every aspect of the movie was. Somebody must have done tons of research for that movie. Most of the arab characters in the movie are actual arab actors, many of the Israeli characters are actual Israeli actors. Each scene was meticulously constructed. For example, the scene from the Palestinian refugee camp, looks like a real Palestinian refugee camp and I have seen many. The scene shot in Israel, brings back memories of living there. Even the way the PLO officials dress, if you go look at old documentary footage you would see that is really how they dressed and talked. The different languages in the movie (English, Arabic, Hebrew, German, French). Then you have accents, like Arabic French, Arabic English, Hebrew English, French English and many many more. It sounds very complex but all those aspects of this movie where executed just right. While the main character is not played by an Israeli actor, I think that Eric Banna did an amazing job portraying the Israeli mossad agent. He was completely convincing, from his accent, body language, the way he carried himself, I almost forgot that he wasn’t Israeli. The only actor that I thought was not convincing was Daniel Craig, but he plays a minor role, but everybody else was 100%, even the French characters and the Russian KGB agents. Other than Daniel Craig there really wasn’t a week link in the movie.
In summary, I think the Munich is a worth while movie simply for the amount of detail that went into it. And any movie that manages to combine Arabic and Israeli actors, among others, is bound to be interesting.
However, I do have certain criticism of the movie and that is the fact that is hides some of grittier aspect of what happened in real life. In real life when the Israeli mossad launched an assassination campaign in Europe in the seventies against Palestinians to avenge the Munich massacre, they killed plenty of innocent bystanders in the process and in at least one case the assassinated the wrong person. A Moroccan author had the same name as a Palestinian on the “black list”. The poor Moroccan author was killed by mistake because of the similarity of names. The movie doesn’t deal with those aspects of the events however the movie is pretty grim even without it.
I left the movie with the impression that Steven Spielberg was trying to tell us that using violence, oppression and assassination to deal with terrorism doesn’t work. I also had the inkling like he is saying “We Jewish people of north America shouldn’t support Israel right or wrong, perhaps we should be a little critical and acknowledge that certain wrongs were committed”. In that regard I have to applaud Steven Spielberg and his courage to make such a critical movie. I am sure he knew he would be plenty criticized and he decided to make the movie anyway. Which required courage. While the movie deals with the events of assassination in Europe against Palestinian officials, it does not deal which the real injustice the average Palestinian has to deal with either living under occupation or living in a refugee camp. For that you would need to see the awesome movie
Bad el Shams
Which was based on a book of the same name
or read the humorous Sharon and My Mother in Law
I only have one question, how does Hiam manage to be in all these incredible movies, one Tunisian, one Egyptian, one Palestinian and One Hollywood? I think her achievement is a great one. I tip my hat to the women of Munich movie, they played minor roles, But they made the movie for me and they played the characters that give us hope for a better future.
O! and that assassin chick that kills after seduction was pretty cool as well, but not as cool as Hiam.