Political Film Society - Kippur

PFS Film Review


On October 6, 1973, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on Yom Kippur Day. In Kippur, director Amos Weinraub Gitai provides an autobiographical account of a small portion of the war. He focuses on two reserve soldiers, Weinraub (played by Liron Levo) and Ruso (played by Tomer Ruso). Ordered to go to the front, they drive toward the Golan Heights, but get so held up in traffic that they cannot reach the assigned unit, so they accept a plea from Dr. Klauzner (played by Uri Ran Klauzner) to drive him to the military hospital at Ramat David. However that road is also blocked, so they end up forming a medical rescue team. Lest anyone imagine that the film is an Israeli counterpart of Saving Private Ryan (1998), the mission is to evacuate fighter pilots who have been shot down so that they can receive treatment at the hospital. Whereas M*A*S*H (1970) focused on events in a military hospital after the arrival of wounded soldiers, Kippur goes directly to the battlefield, where war is ongoing and, similar to the opening birdís eye scene of Regeneration (1998), shows fields littered with corpses. However, Kippur takes us directly to the bodies. We view horrors doubtless similar to those that Henry Dunant saw at the Battle of Solverino in 1859, inspiring him to form the Red Cross, the Israeli counterpart of which is called the Red Star of David. We follow the search for the survivors, who are given morphine, fed intravenously, and have tourniquets applied, either on the ground or in the helicopters that take the wounded to the well-run if understaffed military hospital. Knowing that their lives are in danger every day, the soldiers in the rescue team bare their innermost thoughts -- the physician, for example, misses his birthmother, who died of a broken heart because he stayed with adoptive parents in Belgium when she emerged from a concentration camp at the end of World War II. The most poignant incident in the film occurs when a wounded soldier is caught in the mud; the four stretcherbearers fall into and get stuck in the mud, repeatedly dropping the wounded soldier, who ultimately dies from the mishandling. After five days, the helicopter used by the medical unit is shot down. Those who survive are picked up by another helicopter, including Weinraub and Ruso, who become patients at the hospital and thus end their role in the war. If ever there was a film to dramatize the barbarity of war, Kippur is the one. How could any leader blithely go to war after seeing the carnage in this film? By actual count, the three-week war produced 12,581 deaths or soldiers missing in action plus 26,968 wounded. For his courage in expressing his views through film over the last two decades, Gitai was censored and even forced to leave Israel from 1982 to 1993. But his anti-war sentiment evidently is not based on a philosophical commitment so much as an empirical observation that war is a chaotic enterprise that produces fatigue and sadness while accomplishing little. As a movie that raises consciousness of the need for peaceful ways of resolving conflict, the Political Film Society has nominated Kippur, which began its Los Angeles run on December 1, for an award as best film of 2000 on peace. MH

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