International Writers Magazine:
On the 5th September 1972, with the Summer Olympics in their second
week of competition, eleven members of the Israeli athletics team
were killed in what would later become known as the Munich
Massacre. Thirty three years on, Steven Spielbergs
Munich was released with the following tagline... 'The world
was watching in 1972 as 11 Israeli athletes were murdered at the
Munich Olympics. This is the story of what happened next.'
The question is...what did happen next?
In anticipation of the films UK release, the BBC aired Munich:
Operation Bayonet on This World; a documentary investigating the
Israeli revenge mission on the Palestinian extremists Black September,
in which the names of their targets are revealed.
I watched the film on DVD, including a fairly lengthy Spielberg introduction
where he cools any fires of potent ideology; insisting that the film
is what it is, whilst smothering his tables with papers, books and photographs;
basically anything that can be classified as research.
Munich uses the real names of the targeted Black September group members,
and where possible, their precise means of assassination. If the names
of the Israeli assassins are correct then it is due to a remarkable
coincidence as their true identities have never been released; though
with names such as Steve, Carl and Robert this is highly unlikely! The
use of these names, and the characters themselves, contribute to an
alarming risky aspect of the film; its sense of sympathy towards the
assassins. The characters appear to have been pulled from their houses
and forced to carry out the mission, rather than the specifically trained
hit men of reality.
frequent personal references to the western world began to confuse
me around the final third of the film; was I watching Israelis
attacking Palestinians or an American/Western attack at the middle-east?
The fear of the latter was only increased when the last surviving
members of the Israeli group were the America-based, Germany born
leader and an Englishman!
When watching Munich it is essential not to become carried away
by the developing narrative if you want to obtain some sense of historic
credibility. The beginning of the film appears to be a reasonably sound
portrayal of the event with the inclusion of old news footage. In many
ways it could be used as an historical visual, similar to Spielbergs
Saving Private Ryan, which I remember being shown at school in
a history lesson. Munich after all is an action film, and a very
interesting one at that. It holds more depth than many within the genre
in the sense that it is thought provoking as well as intense and does
not solely rely on gunfights. Munich is a respectable take on
the event, though not historically accurate enough to bare its name.
The temptation of over-exaggeration means that the more realistic portrayal
has been created by the BBC rather than DreamWorks and Spielberg.
© Richard Parry November 2007
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