An Immersive Journey Into a Murderous Mind
DIRECTED BY YARON ZILBERMAN/HEBREW/2020
Yitzhak Babin was the fifth Prime Minister of Isreal, serving in the 70s and then serving a second term beginning in 1992. He was one of the forces behind the Oslo Accords, which set up peace agreements between Isreal and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The agreement was signed in Egypt in 1995. For this, he and his longtime political rival Shimon Peres and the PLO leader Yasser Arafat all won the Nobel Peace Prize together. Also for this, he was assassinated in 1995 while walking out of a rally in Tel Aviv by an Isreali Law Student named Yigal Amir.
Was Amir a monster, an indoctrinated extremist and a cold-blooded murderer? The answer is both “yes” and “it’s more complicated than that”. He was also an intellectual, a friend and a lover. In the new film Incitement, this complicated figure who has in the past been relegated to a footnote in the larger and more important career of Babin, is explored.
Yaron Zilberman’s film does a great job of keeping a balanced view of Amir but tipping that balance to a truth that most people know, including the film, that Amir was a self-justifying narcissist who was incapable of remorse. He was a hero in his own mind and well aware he was going to viewed as a terrorist by the world, but okay with that because the world was wrong and he was right.
The film does a good job of also minimizing his justifications and beliefs. Amir strongly holds that Jews who are trying to achieve peace with the Palestinians are the true villains, even more so than the Palestinians themselves. He strongly holds onto his Jewish identity and even uses it at times to his advantage, like when getting past checkpoints. But his beliefs are not just politically motivated. They’re further spurred by a girl who rejects him, schoolmates who hurt his feelings by calling him crazy, and all of the other things most whiny twenty-year old’s deal with and have to eventually come to terms with to become adults.
Except in his case, it just pushed him to extremism.
Incitement is also made great by Yehuda Nahari Halevi’s performance as Amir. Playing the role with charm, vulnerability, while holding pain in the eyes and an evilness behind his immaturity. When I see a role like this played by a talented actor such as Halevi, I wonder what places they must have gone to in order to embody the mindset of a terrorist. To find the humanity in the heinous. Halevi nails down the performance so well. His acting, Zilberlman’s naturalistic directing and the way the movie edits in real footage seamlessly puts the viewer right in the middle of the most despairing moment of what should have been only a historically hopeful moment in the Middle East.