Spatiality in Film

Sunday, May 21st, 2006

Steven Spielberg’s film, Munich, ends with Ephraim, a Mossad handler, and Avner, the assassin, walking away from one another, their destinations in opposition. Avner offers dinner, an offer of intimacy Ephraim cannot accept. This image of separation completes the film’s fundamental metaphor, home.

I thought that the film suffered from audience unappreciation, in that the film’s political and ethical themes blew out of the screen like grenade charges and became obvious from the start. The film isn’t nuanced about its expression of human conduct and choice. Nevertheless, if it had been stripped of about 45 minutes of obsession with paradox and the big stick of “telling you what this thing is about,” the film would have been a fantastic psychological journey for Avner, who goes from Israeli family man and expectant father to a man without center, alone in the world. Spielberg tells Israel’s story through Avner; it’s a story of descent, of birth to the modern.

More importantly, the film as set of spaces is where the interest lies. Avner must rennounce Israel at many levels before embarking on his journey, hence becoming country-less, home-less. At the end, he cannot go home, of course, because his home has disappeared. One cannot return to a prior space, as Blake teaches, because the geometry of home is always changing. The wilderness Avner enters enters Avner. Avner must live outside the circle of home in exile, which is why he must walk with Israel henseforth at his back. The state here is a physical circle, a reality with surface, an external and internal force any of us can walk into or out of, as we would a room, house, or other structure.

“Not being home,” a kind-of displacement, is Munich’s most powerful after affect. All agents in the movie suffer from the same placelessness. They live and die “outside.” Unlike Sir Gawain, they cannot change their homes upon return.

Back to the road again, then.


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