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The Medium That Mistook Itself for War: Cherry Season in Comparison with Ricochets and Cup Final

From: Israel Studies
Volume 4, Number 1, Spring 1999
pp. 153-174 | 10.1353/is.1999.0023

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Israel Studies 4.1 (1999) 153-174

Special Section: Films in Israeli Society

Introduction

Israel's war in Lebanon has played a starring role in three Israeli films: Ricochets (1986, directed by Eli Cohen), Cherry Season (1991, directed by Haim Bouzaglo), and Cup Final (1991, directed by Eran Riklis). Each of these films, however, depicts the war along different ideological and cinematic lines and therefore all three films give the viewer the impression of three utterly different wars.

Ricochets contains components of the heroic cinema, which coalesced principally around the War of Independence. It tells the old national narrative -- that of the war of the few against the many -- in a new version: as an isolated chosen people's confrontation with a large and hostile world. This narrative, originating in pre-Zionist Orthodox Judaism, was relegated to the fringes in the early Zionist period because it did not fit the secular Socialist Zionist ideology, but it became increasingly central in the 1980s and has appeared in a growing number of texts that describe Jewish history as a protracted continuum of blood-drenched conflict that is leading the isolated Jewish people from devastation to Redemption.

Ricochets does not preserve this narrative as a whole; instead, it combines it with the national humanist attitudes that characterized the political cinema of the 1980s -- a model that was considered as subversive cinema: criticizing and denigrating the mainstream Zionist Narrative. During the Lebanon War, the national narrative as a whole was undermined, and even texts that expressed it attempted to blur it by presenting antiwar attitudes and stressing humanistic, a-national ethical values that have always been described as an integral part of Zionist nationalism. Advocates of the national narrative could not disregard these universal values, but their texts now invoked them as a fig leaf -- as weapons in disputation with the opponents of the war. Ultimately, humanistic values are inducted into the "service of the nation": like the other national traits exhibited in these texts, they exemplify the Jewish people's uniqueness and supremacy over all others -- a uniqueness and supremacy rooted in ethics. Ricochets follows this path by inserting components of the corrective, "humanistic" cinema into the framework of the nationalistic cinema.

Cup Final is created along the lines of the political cinema that was created after the Lebanon War and during the Intifada. This cinema criticized Israeli society while it dealt with Jewish-Arab relations. Practically speaking, Cup Final duplicates characters, episodes, plots that had appeared in previous films on Jewish-Arab relations, sometimes with no change whatsoever. Like them, it assails the national cinema and narrative, and it places the Arab, not the Israeli, as the main protagonist of the plot.

Cherry Season, in contrast to Ricochets and Cup Final, constructs the Lebanon War, not only on the basis of previous wars, but also in view of the war of the future. It describes this war as Baudrillard described the Gulf War: as one that never occurred -- an information war played out for the television screens, in which imaginary soldiers fire at imaginary targets like statistics in a spectacle that is but a "simulacrum"--a copy of reality that has no original, a reality that exists on television only.

The theme of Cherry Season is the Lebanon War. Its underlying model, however, is the new, Israeli, postmodern, urban cinema of the 1990s, which was set in the modern city and tended to totally disregard Israeli wars, Israeli politics, and the Israeli setting --part of this cinema predates the Gulf War, but expresses trends that the latter war reinforced: fatigue with war, fatigue with politics, fatigue with national slogans, disinterest in Israeli history, and lack of confidence in the Israeli leadership. In all of these films, Israeli reality, history, and identity dissolve and are replaced with aesthetic reflections, make-believe, stereotypes of warriors and war (as in Cherry Season), or stereotypes of urban lives (as in the other films). Lyotard's hypothesis concerning "the downfall of the great narratives of modernism." reverberates throughout them all. They all compose and deconstruct national and non-national stereotypes, disregard Zionist history and the narratives that shaped it, and present the world as a simulacrum.

Thus...


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