Dallas Movie Screening

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Thursday, February 13, 2020


*** (out of ****)

With obsessive detail and from one specific perspective, Incitement recounts the political fervor, the psychological mindset, and the historical events that led to the November 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, a figure of great controversy for his support of the Oslo II Accords, which granted a peace agreement between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). This was seen, not only as a betrayal, but as a sacrilegious act by the far-right wing in Israel, and the unique thing about co-writer/director Yaron Zilberman’s film is that it takes on the perspective of Rabin’s assassin without ever affording Yilgar Amir all that much in terms of sympathy toward the extremist.

It is a difficult balancing act, but part of it is achieved through the performance by Yehuda Nahari, who plays the film’s version of Yilgar with both righteous determination and almost psychopathic precision. Much of Zilberman’s screenplay, co-written by Ron Leshem (with additional writing credited to Yair Hizmi), is docudramatic in nature, with Rabin seen almost entirely through archival and news footage (the exception being the sequence of Rabin’s assassination, for which a body double is briefly provided but barely seen). The film cuts to credits almost immediately upon the moment of the killing, which happened in the public square and was caught on a bystander’s home video camera.

Amir was sentenced to life in prison, exacerbated by a law six years after the incident that prohibited him from qualifying for parole or early release. The challenge for Zilberman and Leshem is to tell this story from Amir’s perspective without letting him off the hook. It mostly works, likely because Zilberman keeps just enough distance between the audience and the protagonist through some of the devices of the storytelling at his disposal. One would be the approach, which is like a clinician’s in its stern atmosphere, and the other would be the presence of dissenting voices trying to intervene in Yilgar’s self-righteous attempt to seek justice on behalf of the observant Jews with whom he congregates.

The opposition are secular Jews, inspired by Rabin, his political rival-turned-colleague Shimon Peres (also only seen through footage and by proxy of a body double) and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (never seen in any sense and only mentioned through disgusted mouths). More personally, though, Yilgar only has his parents (played by Amitai Yaish and Anat Ravnitzki) and Nava (Daniella Kertesz), his first of two girlfriends in this narrative, to try to bleat feebly, in his mind, about the futility of violence, especially in the aftermath of a pair of suicide bombings committed by Palestinians in retaliation for an unprompted attack on a worship center by Israeli forces.

For Yilgar, that vicious cycle of violence is neither explicable nor worthy of the explanation. He has no answer for anyone who asks directly about the violence until sometime near the end of his self-imposed mission of vengeance (egged on by a crew of three including his brother, played variously by Yoav Levi, Dolav Ohana, and Raanan Paz, as well as a second girlfriend played by Sivan Mast), disguised as a kind of religious liberation. Incitement crucially never engages with that kind of ideology except to deconstruct the face of it. This is primarily a tightly wound thriller built out of nervous energy, clearheaded politics, and a risky but potent sympathetic experiment at its center.
(Review by Joel Copling)

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