5-2 | Table of Con­tents | http://​dx​.doi​.org/10.17742/IMAGE.TGVC.5-2.5 | Nachrein­er PDF


Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film Munich tells the sto­ry of an Israeli counter-ter­ror­ist team in the after­math of the hijack­ing and mas­sacre at the Olympic Games in 1972. The film spawned broad dis­cus­sion about its his­tor­i­cal accu­ra­cy and its polit­i­cal stand­point. While crit­i­cism pri­mar­i­ly focused on the his­to­ri­o­graph­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the actions depict­ed, this paper ana­lyzes in two steps the gen­uine­ly filmic mode of his­tor­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Munich. First, the analy­sis dis­cuss­es the inter­play of two con­flict­ing nar­ra­tive strate­gies that nego­ti­ate the char­ac­ter devel­op­ment with the polit­i­cal strug­gle. And sec­ond, analy­sis focus­es on the two for­mal devices at the core of the nar­ra­tive con­flict: The reflex­ive fram­ing of tele­vi­sion in the depic­tion of the Munich mas­sacre as a trau­mat­ic media event and the exces­sive trans­for­ma­tion of its mem­o­ry in a series of flash­backs. Such elab­o­ra­tion of the nar­ra­tive and for­mal strate­gies reveals the implic­it his­to­ri­o­graph­i­cal struc­tures of the film and sug­gests that the notion of ‘cul­tur­al trau­ma’ serves as the preferential—but problematic—template in telling the his­to­ry of ter­ror­ism and vio­lence.

Le film de Steven Spiel­berg, Munich (2005), racon­te l’histoire d’une cel­lule antiter­ror­iste israéli­enne suite à la prise d’otages et du mas­sacre qui mar­quèrent les Jeux Olympiques de 1972. Le film sus­ci­ta de nom­breux débats quant à son exac­ti­tude his­torique et son posi­tion­nement poli­tique. À la dif­férence des cri­tiques qui se con­cen­trèrent ini­tiale­ment sur la représen­ta­tion his­to­ri­ographique des actions dépeintes, cet arti­cle analyse en deux étapes le mode filmique de la représen­ta­tion his­torique de Munich. En pre­mier lieu, il s’agit d’analyser l’interaction de deux straté­gies nar­ra­tives con­cur­rentes qui con­fron­tent le développe­ment des per­son­nages avec le com­bat poli­tique. Ensuite l’analyse se con­cen­tre sur deux procédés formels au cœur de ce con­flit nar­ratif : la mise en scène réflex­ive de la télévi­sion dans la représen­ta­tion du mas­sacre de Munich en tant que qu’événement médi­a­tique trau­ma­tique, et la trans­for­ma­tion exces­sive de son sou­venir à tra­vers une série de flash­backs. Une telle con­struc­tion des straté­gies nar­ra­tive et formelle révèle les struc­tures his­to­ri­ographiques implicites du film et sug­gère que la notion de « trau­ma­tisme cul­turel » nour­rit la trame privilégiée—mais problématique—du réc­it de l’histoire du ter­ror­isme et de la vio­lence.

Thomas Nachrein­er | Uni­ver­si­ty of Erlan­gen-Nurem­berg

Inspired by real events”
Media (and) Memory in Steven Spielberg’s Munich (2005)

A Reel Event

With his film Munich (2005), Steven Spiel­berg showed twofold vir­tu­os­i­ty: Not only did he show his skill in craft­ing pow­er­ful cin­e­mat­ic nar­ra­tives but he made this movie into a pub­lic event, trig­ger­ing an intense debate. Open­ing with the slo­gan “inspired by real events” (fig. 1), the film employs a rhetoric device com­mon­ly used to claim a story’s authen­tic ref­er­ence to his­tor­i­cal events.

Fig. 1

Crit­i­cal recep­tion read­i­ly applied such read­ing and com­mit­ted itself to a broad dis­cus­sion about its his­tor­i­cal accu­ra­cy and the polit­i­cal stand­point tak­en by Spiel­berg in eval­u­at­ing the his­to­ry of the Mid­dle East con­flict. Con­se­quen­tial­ly, the film about the Munich hijack­ing of and mas­sacre of eleven mem­bers of the Israeli Olympic team by the Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion Black Sep­tem­ber in 1972 and the sub­se­quent hunt for the orga­niz­ers by an Israeli intel­li­gence ser­vice team was ques­tioned in respect of his­to­ri­o­graph­i­cal cat­e­gories: Was there an oblig­a­tion for his­tor­i­cal truth, espe­cial­ly when por­tray­ing his­tor­i­cal fig­ures like Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Gol­da Meir and using his­toric footage from the event’s tele­vi­sion cov­er­age (see Melman/ Har­tov)? Which his­tor­i­cal actions and accounts have been select­ed and, in con­trast, which ones have been omit­ted as source and ele­ments of the film, espe­cial­ly when held against the moral inter­pre­ta­tions derived from it (see Gold­berg)?[1] Final­ly, the ques­tion aris­es, whether the mode of rep­re­sen­ta­tion was ade­quate for mak­ing rea­son­able claims about the seri­ous issues in con­trast to the alle­ga­tions of mere sen­sa­tion­al­ism and exploita­tion of sex and vio­lence (see Wieselti­er)?

While these ques­tions were pon­dered from a vast­ly diverse range of stand­points, the reviews declared unan­i­mous con­sent regard­ing the alle­goric dimen­sion of the film, see­ing the Sep­tem­ber 11 attacks and the fol­low­ing ‘war on ter­ror’ as the real ‘real events’ it was inspired by. The explic­it rhetoric of Spiel­ber­gian cin­e­ma read­i­ly paves the way for such alle­goric read­ing on vir­tu­al­ly all filmic lay­ers, even­tu­al­ly cul­mi­nat­ing in the final shot pre­sent­ing the Man­hat­tan sky­line with the then new­ly built World Trade Cen­ter back in 1973 (fig. 2).

Fig. 2

Munich starts with the ter­ror­ist action turn­ing into a media event broad­cast­ed live, con­tin­ues with joint mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence reprisals against the (pos­si­ble) orga­niz­ers and oth­er ‘ene­mies of the state’ under the impres­sion of this ini­tial shock, and lead­ing to an increas­ing­ly painful pon­der­ing over one’s own val­ue sys­tem in the light of those reprisals: Avn­er Kauf­man and his team eas­i­ly lend them­selves as sil­ver screen for the pro­jec­tion of Amer­i­can pow­er in the wake of 9/11 as they inex­orably drift into a spi­ral of vio­lence that forces them first and fore­most to rec­on­cile their notions of home and iden­ti­ty.

The direc­tor him­self claimed it to be “a prayer for peace” (Spiel­berg, as qtd. in Schick­el 236), sole­ly meant to raise ques­tions about the con­flict and refus­ing easy solu­tions for ter­ror­ism in gen­er­al and the Mid­dle East­ern con­flict in par­tic­u­lar. The film’s nom­i­na­tion for the Acad­e­my Award shows the broad accep­tance of Spielberg’s pro­jec­tion of Amer­i­ca post-9/11 into the realm of the Mid­dle East­ern con­flict,[2] mir­rored in the account of crit­ic Michelle Gold­berg: “Munich is about the way vengeance and violence—even nec­es­sary, jus­ti­fied violence—corrupt both their vic­tims and their per­pe­tra­tors. It’s about the strug­gle to main­tain some bedrock moral­i­ty while engag­ing in immoral­i­ty” (Gold­berg). Despite the con­sid­er­ably numer­ous indi­ca­tors for the nuanced por­tray­al of the dif­fer­ent sides, as well as the dif­fer­ent acts of vio­lence and/or ter­ror­ism (see Foy), such dialec­tics were quick­ly charged with alle­ga­tions of moral rel­a­tivism:

The Israeli response to Black Sep­tem­ber marked the birth of con­tem­po­rary coun­tert­er­ror­ism, and it is dif­fi­cult not to see Munich as a para­ble of Amer­i­can pol­i­cy since Sep­tem­ber 11. “Every civ­i­liza­tion finds it nec­es­sary to nego­ti­ate com­pro­mis­es with its own val­ues,” Gol­da Meir grim­ly con­cludes ear­ly in the film. Yet the film pro­claims that ter­ror­ists and coun­tert­er­ror­ists are alike. “When we learn to act like them, we will defeat them!” declares one of Avner’s men, played by Daniel Craig, already with a license to kill. Worse, Munich prefers a dis­cus­sion of coun­tert­er­ror­ism to a dis­cus­sion of ter­ror­ism; or it thinks that they are the same dis­cus­sion. This is an opin­ion that only peo­ple who are not respon­si­ble for the safe­ty of oth­er peo­ple can hold. (Wieselti­er)

Apart from Leon Wieseltier’s most obvi­ous mis­take, which was to take a ran­dom state­ment in a film as its over­all mes­sage, his fur­ther cri­tique echoes a prin­ci­pal rejec­tion of Hollywood’s pop­u­lar cul­ture for being inher­ent­ly apo­lit­i­cal:

No doubt Munich will be admired for its mechan­i­cal sym­me­tries, which will be called com­plex­i­ty. But this is not com­plex­i­ty, it is strat­e­gy. I mean of the mar­ket­ing kind: […] Munich is des­per­ate not to be charged with a point of view. It is ani­mat­ed by a sense of tragedy and a dream of peace, which all good peo­ple share, but which in Hol­ly­wood is regard­ed as a dis­sent, and also as a point of view. […] For the only side that Steven Spiel­berg ever takes is the side of the movies. (Wieselti­er)

Like­wise does George Jonas’ review “The Spiel­berg mas­sacre” locate the assumed fail­ure of Munich in its imper­a­tive of cin­e­mat­ic enter­tain­ment. Jonas, author of Vengeance: The True Sto­ry of an Israeli Counter-Ter­ror­ist Team, the book Munich is based on, claims and accus­es: “My book was all about aveng­ing evil. Then the King of Hol­ly­wood got hold of it” (Jonas “Spiel­berg”). He points at his own research and ful­ly dis­miss­es the char­ac­ter psy­chol­o­gy devel­oped in Munich, thus emphat­i­cal­ly refut­ing the films dis­claimer “inspired by real events.” At the core of his argu­ment, he crit­i­cizes the way Spiel­berg and his co-writer Tony Kush­n­er “in their effort not to demo­nize humans, Spiel­berg and Kush­n­er end up human­iz­ing demons” (Jonas “Spiel­berg”).

Fig. 3

Fig. 4

For Jonas, the epit­o­me of Spielberg’s mis­treat­ment of his sub­ject mat­ter is to be found in a cru­cial flash­back, show­ing a sex scene of main pro­tag­o­nist Avn­er Kauff­man inter­cut with the Munich mas­sacre (figs. 3 and 4). This par­tic­u­lar scene was not only labeled equal­ly vul­gar and sen­sa­tion­al­ist in oth­er reviews, it also hints at the sub­stan­tial dif­fer­ences between Munich and an ear­li­er filmic adap­ta­tion of the book, the 1986 TV-pro­duc­tion Sword of Gideon by Michael Ander­son: It refrains entire­ly from using flash­backs as a nar­ra­tive device to con­struct its plot and in doing so, it also employs a dif­fer­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal con­flict struc­ture for the main pro­tag­o­nist.

Against this back­ground, the flash­back scenes in Munich are sig­nif­i­cant exam­ples for the prob­lem encoun­tered, when try­ing to relate a nar­ra­tive and fic­tion­al media prod­uct to its fore­go­ing real­i­ty or its fore­go­ing nar­ra­tives claim­ing a clos­er rela­tion to this real­i­ty: The arbi­trari­ness of a par­tic­u­lar nar­ra­tive and nar­ra­tive in gen­er­al. Kristin Thomp­son assess­es this prob­lem in the frame­work of neo­for­mal­ist film the­o­ry:

This total absorp­tion in nar­ra­tive has some unpleas­ant con­se­quences for the act of view­ing. The view­er may be capa­ble of under­stand­ing the nar­ra­tive, but has no con­text in which to place that under­stand­ing: the under­ly­ing arbi­trari­ness of the nar­ra­tive is hid­den by struc­tures of moti­va­tion and nat­u­ral­iza­tion. A nar­ra­tive is a chain of caus­es and effects, but, unlike the real world, the nar­ra­tive world requires one ini­tial cause which itself has no cause. The choice of this ini­tial cause is one source of the arbi­trari­ness of nar­ra­tive. Also, once the hermeneu­tic and proairet­ic codes are ope­nend in a nar­ra­tive, there is noth­ing which log­i­cal­ly deter­mines how long the nar­ra­tive will con­tin­ue; more and more delays could pro­long the chain of cause and effect indef­i­nite­ly. This the ini­ti­a­tion, pro­gres­sion, and clo­sure of fic­tion­al nar­ra­tives is large­ly arbi­trary. Nar­ra­tives are not log­i­cal in them­selves; they only make use of log­ic. (497)

In con­se­quence, we might be able to refrain for a moment from look­ing through the lens of ‘nat­u­ral­iz­ing’ rep­re­sen­ta­tion and from pro­ject­ing the Munich onto the real event, but rather focus on the ‘reel event’—which means to fol­low its inner mechan­ics in the terms of the filmic nar­ra­tion in the frame­work of its for­mal and aes­thet­ic devices. Far from being a self-suf­fi­cient aca­d­e­m­ic exer­cise this leads the way towards a sus­tain­ing expla­na­tion, how the medi­um film accom­plish­es the alle­gor­i­cal trans­fer and his­tor­i­cal con­nec­tion between two, after all, dif­fer­ent his­tor­i­cal events. And it shows that being on “the side of the movies” not nec­es­sar­i­ly implies being apo­lit­i­cal, as Wieselti­er sug­gests. Quite on the con­trary, I want to argue, that the polit­i­cal dimen­sion of Munich lies in its filmic con­cep­tion, rather than in its mere depic­tion of the ‘real’ world. After all, this is because the inter­pre­ta­tive schemes allow­ing for a his­tor­i­cal­ly based rep­re­sen­ta­tion are as much engrained in the basic nar­ra­tive and filmic struc­tures of the medi­um.

Conflicting Narratives: The Archaic and the Modern

Start­ing on such premise, one must not only ask which sto­ry is told in Munich, but also what kind of sto­ry and how it is told. In his review for Vari­ety Todd McCarthy dis­cov­ers a gener­ic con­flict, assess­ing that “the director's long-ges­tat­ing med­i­ta­tive thriller […] takes its own sweet time mak­ing obvi­ous points about the Jew­ish nation com­pro­mis­ing its own val­ues, and in the process for­gets to be a pulse-quick­en­ing sus­penser.” And while else­where it is explic­it­ly hailed that “Munich defies easy label­ing” by show­ing “moral and eth­i­cal ele­ments, lay­ered atop a sto­ry that is ripe with sus­pense” (Berar­dinel­li), McCarthy only sees a “lumpy and over­long moral­i­ty play on a failed thriller tem­plate” (McCarthy). While gener­ic cat­e­gories are help­ful in attun­ing pro­duc­tion deci­sions to audi­ence expec­ta­tion, they often are con­cepts too broad to pro­vide an ana­lyt­i­cal close read­ing of one par­tic­u­lar film. For instance, call­ing Munich a thriller cer­tain­ly leads to the quick con­fir­ma­tion that it indeed shows its cen­tral ele­ments, ‘sus­pense’ and ‘sur­prise’ being the pre­dom­i­nant ones in the films com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the spec­ta­tor (see Bordwell/ Thomp­son 113). Stick­ing to the gener­ic scheme then might lead to prob­lems in account­ing for the hybrid­i­ty of the film, as in our case for instance the afore­men­tioned “moral and eth­i­cal ele­ments” (Berar­dinel­li), which seem to extend beyond the thriller genre, no mat­ter if they are judged a valu­able sur­plus or rather a unnec­es­sary nui­sance slow­ing down the action.

For exam­ple, regard­ing the devel­op­ment of main pro­tag­o­nist Avn­er Kauffman’s moral con­science, we encounter sev­er­al scenes show­ing Avn­er pon­der­ing over his deci­sions, usu­al­ly depict­ed by sym­bol­iz­ing the dou­ble-mind­ed­ness by show­ing his face half-lit, half-shady.

Fig. 5

Fig. 6

This can serve the gener­ic sus­pense, for instance when placed in the course of an attack mis­sion (fig. 5)—but espe­cial­ly after the film suc­ces­sive­ly pro­gress­es to his state of dis­il­lu­sion, the weigh­ing of the dou­ble-mind­ed­ness stops serv­ing this func­tion (fig. 6).

To sur­pass the lim­i­ta­tions of the genre con­cept and reach an inte­grat­ed ana­lyt­i­cal account, the first part of the analy­sis employs a basic mod­el of nar­ra­tion drawn from Rick Altman’s A The­o­ry of Nar­ra­tive (2008). Mov­ing away from the (neo-)formalist con­cep­tions of nar­ra­tion, pri­mar­i­ly focused on the inter­play between plot and sto­ry, for Alt­man “[t]he exis­tence of nar­ra­tive depends on the simul­ta­ne­ous and coor­di­nat­ed pres­ence of action and char­ac­ter” (15). Nar­ra­tional activ­i­ty then is orga­nized by “fol­low­ing” the char­ac­ters in their actions, thus being the very act of cre­at­ing mean­ing through the cre­ation of a rela­tion­al order between the sin­gle ele­ments of action by suc­ces­sion.

As his cen­tral ana­lyt­i­cal unit, Alt­man uses the con­cept of the “fol­low­ing-unit,” being “a series of seg­ments each made up of that por­tion of the text where a char­ac­ter (or group of char­ac­ters) is fol­lowed con­tin­u­ous­ly” (22). String­ing togeth­er fol­low­ing-units hap­pens by the act of “mod­u­la­tion”, sub-divid­ed in the cat­e­gories metonymic, metaphor­ic, and hyper­bol­ic: While the metonymic mod­u­la­tion between fol­low­ing units implies a spa­tial con­nec­tion between sequences (24), the metaphor­ic mod­u­la­tion rather oper­ates by sim­i­lar­i­ty or even anal­o­gy of con­cepts (25). The cat­e­go­ry of the hyper­bol­ic in con­trast eschews the plau­si­ble con­nec­tion and fore­grounds the very lack of explic­it con­nec­tion (25–26).[3] A nar­ra­tive then can be described as the pat­tern that emerges from the mod­u­la­tion of the fol­low­ing units: a more or less dis­tinc­tive “fol­low­ing pat­tern” allow­ing the spec­ta­tor to under­stand and there­by map out the fic­tion­al filmic world (291–97). Based on this mod­el, Alt­man sub­se­quent­ly devel­ops three broad cat­e­gories of nar­ra­tive sys­tems that describe the con­sti­tu­tive modes of nar­ra­tion in ‘West­ern’ cul­ture (338–40) along with what might be called their divi­sion of focus, its fun­da­men­tal cat­e­gories being sin­gle focus, dual focus, and mul­ti­ple focus.

Applied to Munich, the mod­el reveals a scheme fol­low­ing the main pro­tag­o­nist Avn­er Kauff­man for the most part of the film: After the ini­tial sequence unfold­ing the Munich hijack­ing and its imme­di­ate con­se­quences, the sub­se­quent plot orga­nizes its sto­ry along two con­cep­tu­al strands: One fol­lows the retal­i­a­tion oper­a­tions for the Munich hijack­ing along­side the polit­i­cal lines of the wider Mid­dle East con­flict; the oth­er fol­lows the devel­op­ment of Avner’s fam­i­ly, begin­ning with his wife’s preg­nan­cy and the sub­se­quent birth of his daugh­ter, end­ing in in New York even­tu­al­ly. The fol­low­ing-units mod­u­late accord­ing to the spa­tial log­ic of the events, start­ing from the mis­sion onset for Avn­er in Israel to Switzer­land for the for­ma­tion of a five men oper­a­tions unit, and after­wards to the var­i­ous loca­tions to pre­pare and exe­cute the killing of their assas­si­na­tion tar­gets defined by their sup­posed asso­ci­a­tion with Black Sep­tem­ber. Action is alter­nat­ing between Avn­er (in oper­a­tion) with his team, Avn­er meet­ing intel­li­gence infor­mants, and Avn­er meet­ing his family—his moth­er on the one side and his wife and daugh­ter on the oth­er. After sev­er­al suc­cess­ful killing oper­a­tions fail­ure sets in, result­ing in the death of three of Avner’s com­rades, even­tu­al­ly end­ing the mis­sion for Avn­er who moves to his fam­i­ly, mean­while liv­ing in New York.

In this struc­ture, we can almost ful­ly rec­og­nize the cen­tral char­ac­ter­is­tics assigned to sin­gle focus nar­ra­tives by Alt­man: The fol­low­ing pat­tern clear­ly “con­cen­trates on a sin­gle indi­vid­ual” lead­ing to “[a] text gen­er­at­ed by a protagonist's desire, often expressed through a depar­ture into pre­vi­ous­ly unex­plored ter­ri­to­ry, behav­ior, or thought” (189). This tem­plate sur­faces in Avner’s explo­ration of the counter-ter­ror­ist oper­a­tions, pre­vi­ous­ly unknown to him—as well as in his new role as a father. Even­ly explic­it are the “[s]econdary char­ac­ters who serve as mod­els for the pro­tag­o­nist, often tak­ing the form of father fig­ure, tempter, medi­a­tor, or teacher” (189). These can be found scat­tered across the ranks of his team, tend­ing to rep­re­sent dif­fer­ent stand­points in the con­flict, espe­cial­ly when eval­u­at­ing the con­se­quences of their vio­lent oper­a­tions (fig. 7).

Fig. 7

Among the most dom­i­nant ones is the father fig­ure of the French infor­mant “Papa,” who serves him with elder­ly advice in the absence of his real father. This is a sig­nif­i­cant vari­a­tion to Sword of Gideon, where the per­son­al con­flict of Avn­er is most­ly nego­ti­at­ed in con­ver­sa­tion with his real father and the fig­ure of the French infor­mant does not exist at all.

Thus Avn­er oscil­lates between the role of the actor and the role of the observ­er: While we watch him nego­ti­at­ing his val­ues, he him­self watch­es how oth­ers nego­ti­ate “[5]alues that depend on pri­vate and per­son­al ques­tions (moti­va­tion, inten­tion, thought), always sub­ject to inter­pre­ta­tion” (Alt­man 189). For instance, he is con­front­ed with dif­fer­ent con­cepts of “home:” One the one hand it is defined as his nation exem­pli­fied by Israeli prime min­is­ter Gol­da Meir, his own moth­er, and the intel­li­gence lead­ers; on the oth­er hand the term becomes increas­ing­ly cou­pled to his own fam­i­ly, deriv­ing its notion from a rather pri­vate and apo­lit­i­cal frame­work (see also Klein 110–12).

Like­wise, fit­ting the gen­er­al­ized shape of the sin­gle focus nar­ra­tive, Avner’s progress is con­tin­u­ous­ly mea­sured by “moral mir­rors, repeat­ed scenes, reit­er­at­ed loca­tions, or devel­op­men­tal metaphors” that orga­nize the repeat­ed alter­na­tion between the “pre­sen­ta­tion of an event and eval­u­a­tion of an event” (Alt­man 189). For exam­ple, the killing oper­a­tions of the Israeli team are always dis­cussed and eval­u­at­ed after­wards, usu­al­ly in the frame­work of a shared meal. There­by the meal motif is exces­sive­ly played out while the doubts about their moral integri­ty are increas­ing­ly painful. In sum, Munich presents a clas­sic sin­gle focus nar­ra­tive, in which the val­ue sys­tem of Avn­er Kauff­man is explored: Start­ing in a rather sta­ble frame­work of loy­al­ty to his coun­try he devel­ops eth­i­cal doubts that lead him to a read­just­ment of his cat­e­gories, even­tu­al­ly giv­ing pri­or­i­ty to his fam­i­ly as he can­not find a com­pro­mise with his polit­i­cal loy­al­ty.

This con­sis­tent scheme would hold for the gen­er­al inter­pre­ta­tion of the film, if there weren’t four rather ‘cum­ber­some’ fol­low­ing units, which, at least for­mal­ly, do not fit the gen­er­al pat­tern of the sin­gle focus nar­ra­tive. These devi­a­tions from the sin­gle focus are of par­tic­u­lar inter­est since they form the parts where the title event, the Munich hijack­ing, is brought into the movie beyond the explic­it ref­er­ence through char­ac­ter speech. And fur­ther­more, except for the sketch of the media event, they do not occur in Sword of Gideon, thus par­tic­u­lar­ly mark­ing the nar­ra­tive style cho­sen by Steven Spiel­berg in con­trast to oth­er adap­ta­tions of the sto­ry. The first one is at the begin­ning of the film: Imme­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing the title “inspired by real events” the hijack­ing oper­a­tion of Black Sep­tem­ber is entered at the fence of the Olympic vil­lage (fig. 8).

Fig. 8

Fig. 9

Fig. 10

Fig. 11

Fig. 12

The char­ac­ters fol­lowed are the hijack­ers enter­ing the house of the Israeli team in a strict­ly spa­tial fash­ion, until the begin­ning of the assault (fig. 9). Then the fol­low­ing extends into a sequence one could term the “glob­al media event”: In rapid chrono­log­i­cal suc­ces­sion we see about[4] 16 dis­tinc­tive sequences that alter­nate between the dif­fer­ent loca­tions and the dif­fer­ent actors of the event. A mul­ti­plic­i­ty of actors, whose spe­cif­ic iden­ti­ty is not fur­ther clar­i­fied beyond their nar­ra­tive func­tions, is shown, rang­ing from TV audi­ences in Israel and Pales­tine to the TV teams in Munich with their con­trol rooms and reporters on loca­tion (fig. 10); and rang­ing from the Israelis offi­cials in front of their TVs to the hijack­ers, vic­tims and police forces in the Olympic Vil­lage watch­ing TV them­selves (fig. 11). This metonymic mod­u­la­tion is orga­nized via the tele­vi­sion screen as its inter­face, there­by extend­ing the local space of the event into the wider space of TV exposure—eventually lead­ing to the point when Avn­er Kauff­man is involved watch­ing tele­vi­sion like every­body else (fig. 12). Remark­ably, his appear­ance is not before the end of the ‘event prop­er’, but only dur­ing the memo­r­i­al ser­vice for the eleven Israeli vic­tims. On the one hand, this is already the onset of the sin­gle focus nar­ra­tive fol­low­ing Avn­er Kauff­man exclu­sive­ly, but on the oth­er hand there is still a metaphor­ic mod­u­la­tion to the con­trol room of the Israeli intel­li­gence ser­vice, where retal­i­a­tion is pre­pared by show­ing the pic­tures and call­ing the names of the Pales­tin­ian organizers—notably in a strik­ing anal­o­gy to the memo­r­i­al ser­vice also based on the prin­ci­ple of show­ing and nam­ing (fig. 13 and fig. 14).

Fig. 13

Fig. 14

The sec­ond, third, and fourth devi­a­tion from the sin­gle focus nar­ra­tive clear­ly have an ambiva­lent sta­tus. For­mal­ly framed as (day)dreams of Avn­er, they seem to be sequels to the begin­ning of the hijack­ing, thus fill­ing an ellip­sis of action cre­at­ed by the por­tray­al of the event as media event sketched out above. Seen from such per­spec­tive, they also resem­ble a flash­back. While the for­mal prob­lem of the ‘false’ flash­back will be dis­cussed in the next chap­ter, for the moment, we will focus on their nar­ra­tive sta­tus in terms of fol­low­ing and map­ping: The entry into the sequences is marked by the gaze of Avn­er sig­nal­ing a metonymic mod­u­la­tion shift­ing from exter­nal real­i­ty to the inte­ri­or­i­ty of his expe­ri­ence. Yet, if seen in rela­tion to their occur­rence with­in the plot, the flash­backs could be read equal­ly as metaphor­i­cal mod­u­la­tions, mir­ror­ing the devel­op­ment of Avn­er.

The first flash­back takes place when Avn­er embarks on his mis­sion fly­ing from Israel to Switzer­land. It begins with pic­tures of the Pales­tin­ian hijack­ers enter­ing the flat of the Israeli team already known from the begin­ning of the movie. This time the scene expands, not into the media event this time, but into the break­ing of Israeli resis­tance, the tak­ing of hostages, and the killing of two Israeli men. The final scene ends with the sec­ond killing, shown in a pan­ning shot that moves with the machine gun sal­vo from the shell-pierced body to the wall behind get­ting splat­tered red with blood (fig. 15).

Fig. 15

Fig. 16

From this out­right image of mas­sacre th5e flash­back fades back into the present of Avn­er, who still is in the air­plane. Appar­ent­ly under the impres­sion of such ‘shell shock’[5] he takes of his wed­ding ring and ulti­mate­ly the mis­sion begins (fig. 16).

The sec­ond flash­back finds Avn­er in an entire­ly dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion. Mean­while, the mis­sion of his team pro­gressed with the liq­ui­da­tion of sev­er­al tar­gets, yet reach­ing the point of stag­na­tion and back­lash. Their attempt to kill their most valu­able tar­get, Ali Has­san Salameh, failed and Avn­er calls his wife in New York from his hotel room in Lon­don. Hear­ing his daugh­ter ‘speak’[6] he cov­ers his eyes. The flash­back enters the Munich hijack­ing with a hard cut at the very moment when hijack­ers and hostages in the Olympic vil­lage trans­fer from the flat to the heli­copters for fur­ther tran­sit to the Fürsten­feld­bruck air­base.[7] By fol­low­ing char­ac­ters and actions no new infor­ma­tion is revealed for the spec­ta­tor, or put dif­fer­ent­ly: Basi­cal­ly, the nar­ra­tive progress gets delayed. We sim­ply fol­low the group enter­ing a bus, see the busses pass the reporters caught up in live cov­er­age, exit­ing the bus and again enter­ing, this time two heli­copters. At first sight the action seems quite irrel­e­vant, yet there is one par­tic­u­lar­ly sig­nif­i­cant moment in the scene: While the hijack­ers are clear­ly marked as aggres­sors by their guns through­out the sequence, this impres­sion is dis­turbed in the end. When enter­ing the heli­copter, a hostage stum­bles, bury­ing the now help­less hijack­er under him­self. Although the sit­u­a­tion is quick­ly resolved and order is restored again, we are shown pic­tures of the aggres­sor ren­dered into a help­less ter­ri­fied vic­tim, vir­tu­al­ly indis­tinc­tive from a hostage (fig. 17).

Fig. 17

Exit­ing the flash­back by a hard cut, we see Avn­er sud­den­ly awake from this night­mar­ish impres­sion. Min­utes after­wards he has to real­ize that the first of his team mem­bers was killed by a hos­tile agent. And fur­ther­more he comes to real­ize that he as like­ly could have been the vic­tim him­self. The rela­tion between per­pe­tra­tors and vic­tims is shak­en, both in the Avner’s present and the remem­bered past.

The third flash­back is the most com­plex one and marks Avner’s final stage of devel­op­ment. After the mis­sion has ter­mi­nat­ed with­out the accom­plish­ment of all objec­tives, Avn­er resides in New York with his fam­i­ly, haunt­ed by an almost para­noid fear for the safe­ty of his fam­i­ly. The penul­ti­mate scene plays in the mar­i­tal bed. In this struc­tur­al coun­ter­part of an ear­li­er sex scene before the begin­ning of the mis­sion Avn­er is dis­tract­ed as his wife starts touch­ing him. His gaze is con­stant­ly direct­ed towards the off and nev­er meets the eye­line of his wife until the flash­back sets in when hijack­ers and hostages are at Fürsten­feld­bruck air­port. The lat­ter ones are con­strained by ropes and remain in the heli­copters, while two of the hijack­ers inspect the pro­vid­ed escape plane. When real­iz­ing the attempt of trick­ery by the Ger­man police force an extend­ed gun­fight sets in, even­tu­al­ly lead­ing to the killing of five of the eight hijack­ers and all nine hostages. While the oth­er hijack­er sequences are closed off as fol­low­ing units, this last one is open to its nar­ra­tive frame being inter­cut with the ongo­ing sex scene of Avn­er. The fol­low­ing pat­tern of the third flash­back thus shows a con­stant mod­u­la­tion stress­ing the metaphor­i­cal rela­tion between the acts of vio­lence in (the past of) Fürsten­feld­bruck and the (present) sex­u­al act in New York, final­ly cul­mi­nat­ing in an exces­sive alter­na­tion of the explo­sion of one heli­copter, Avner’s orgasm, and a machine gun sal­vo killing the Jew­ish hostages in the sec­ond heli­copter (figs. 3 and 4). The flash­back ends with a hard cut and Avn­er rests his head on his wife’s shoul­der, the scene clos­ing with a close-up of the hands inter­twined, both of their wed­ding rings clear­ly vis­i­ble. As Susanne Klein sug­gests, this seems to be a cathar­tic expe­ri­ence for Avn­er, allow­ing him peace in his fam­i­ly home—and enabling him to refuse fur­ther ser­vices for Israel as he does in the final scene in front of the Man­hat­tan sky­line (see also Klein 119) (fig. 2).

It should be not­ed that these sequences I have labeled as ‘devi­a­tions’ from the sin­gle focus nar­ra­tive are inte­grat­ed into the sin­gle focus frame­work inso­far as they are Avner’s men­tal images—a read­ing deci­sive­ly sug­gest­ed by the appro­pri­at­ed blend­ing tech­niques. In con­trast, or rather at the same time, they point at the nar­ra­tive scheme of the dual focus nar­ra­tive. Accord­ing to Alt­man “[f]or a text to work in a dual-focus man­ner, it must estab­lish a space (or series of spaces) and intro­duce two sep­a­rate groups lay­ing claim to that space” (91). Its fol­low­ing pat­tern is alter­nat­ing between the oppo­si­tion­al groups prefer­ably by “reg­u­lar move­ments between the two sides by means of metaphor­ic mod­u­la­tion” (90). And the ensu­ing con­fronta­tion is framed by estab­lished val­ue sys­tems like law or tra­di­tion while the dual focus nar­ra­tive tends towards “[n]egation of time through sus­pen­sion, cir­cu­lar­i­ty, and spa­tial­iza­tion” (90).

Although the alter­na­tion between the groups in Munich is rather asym­met­ri­cal by default since almost every scene involves Avn­er or his con­science, the motif of the claimed space per­me­ates the film on sev­er­al lay­ers. Start­ing with the very core of the con­flict, Pales­tine and Israel are described as oppo­nents for the same land through­out the film, both with a sim­i­lar rhetoric defin­ing the land as “home.” How­ev­er, the actu­al con­fronta­tion hard­ly takes place in Israel or Gaza, but vir­tu­al­ly every­where in the glob­al space.[8] As the film fol­lows the retal­i­a­tion oper­a­tions it is mov­ing pre­dom­i­nant­ly across Europe, but also to the Mid­dle East and to the Unit­ed States. At the same time, sev­er­al TV broad­casts that are depict­ed as vari­a­tions of the ini­tial media event at the Olympics sig­ni­fy that the glob­al con­fronta­tion is not only phys­i­cal, but also sit­u­at­ed on the sym­bol­ic plain (fig. 18).

Fig. 18

Fig. 19

There­by the oppo­nents are bound togeth­er metaphor­i­cal­ly in the vicious cir­cle of vio­lence, both poten­tial­ly being per­pe­tra­tors and victims—occasionally even at the same time (fig. 19).

In the log­ic of retal­i­a­tion, time strives towards sus­pen­sion and circularity—for that each vic­to­ry trig­gers anoth­er defeat, and for that every killed ter­ror­ist quick­ly spawns a suc­ces­sor. A per­spec­tive vivid­ly recalled by Ephraim in the final scene, when he com­pares the war on ter­ror with the cut­ting of his unceas­ing­ly grow­ing fingernails—while the New York Sky­line forms the back­ground. Last, and prob­a­bly not least, the space under con­tes­ta­tion is the space of mem­o­ry. Giv­en the promi­nence of the (false) flash­back scenes that force­ful­ly enter Avner’s thoughts, the per­cep­tion of the enemy—however frag­ile in its medi­at­ed and remem­bered instances—is repeat­ed­ly evoked as a guid­ing prin­ci­ple for present actions. Avn­er is only able to escape this con­flict about his mem­o­ry (and thus his iden­ti­ty) by shift­ing the sym­bol­ic grounds from the polit­i­cal to the pri­vate sphere. This being played out in the sym­bol­ic form of the sex­u­al act is hard­ly acci­den­tal, since the sex­u­al act is con­sid­ered as com­mon cul­tur­al sym­bol for the act of tak­ing pos­ses­sion of land, espe­cial­ly in the frame­work of the dou­ble focus nar­ra­tive (see Alt­man 78–84).

To make sense of the pres­ence and con­fronta­tion of the two dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tive strate­gies, we might look at their roots in cul­tur­al his­to­ry. Accord­ing to Alt­man the dou­ble focus mode can be con­sid­ered the old­er, more archa­ic mod­el, also show­ing strong ties to Jew­ish his­to­ry:

For Jews, the Hebrew Bible ot Tanakh remains cen­tral to every aspect of reli­gious life. The dual-focus tales of Exo­dus, Judges, Esther, and Mac­cabees all pro­vide impor­tant mod­els for a reli­gion that depends heav­i­ly on a dis­tinc­tion between those who are with­in and those who are with­out. Just as these books tell sto­ries of the sep­a­ra­tion of the world into Israelites and their foes, so Jew­ish life is heav­i­ly depen­dent on rit­u­als that cel­e­brate inclu­sion while threat­en­ing exile for the unfaithful—the ulti­mate pun­ish­ment in a dual-focus sys­tem. Books of his­to­ry, books of law, books of wis­dom and prophecy—the Hebrew Bible con­tains a res­olute­ly dual-focus mod­el for dai­ly life. (Alt­man 334)

In con­trast, the sin­gle focus nar­ra­tive is rather asso­ci­at­ed with mod­ern mar­ket economies and the notion of indi­vid­ual devel­op­ment. Its log­ic does not derive from cir­cu­lar rep­e­ti­tion of sta­ble val­ues, but rather from lin­ear devel­op­ment on the basis of per­son­al deci­sions that allows for the nego­ti­a­tion of val­ues (334). From this per­spec­tive, the sto­ry told in Munich is a kind of nest­ing of the old­er nar­ra­tive for­mu­la (the dou­ble focus) with­in the new­er one (the sin­gle focus) —or put dif­fer­ent­ly: An archa­ic for­mu­la with­in a mod­ern for­mu­la. Spielberg’s “prayer for peace” (Spiel­berg, as qtd. in Schick­el 236) makes its rejec­tion of the spi­ral violence—biblically speak­ing: an eye for an eye—plausible by nest­ing it into the rather mod­ern tem­plate of psy­cho­log­i­cal devel­op­ment. How­ev­er, while the archa­ic dis­solves, it does not dis­ap­pear ful­ly: The dis­tant but gloomy World Trade Cen­ter hints at the both poten­tial and actu­al return of the repressed archa­ic for­mu­la (fig. 2). Regard­less of spec­u­la­tions about Spielberg’s Jew­ish ori­gin this nest­ing of nar­ra­tive for­mu­las can be con­sid­ered to hint at the basic con­cept of his­to­ry put for­ward by Munich: Despite mod­ern man’s con­science root­ed in the abil­i­ty to reflect upon him­self and the moral­i­ty of his deeds, he is unable to learn from his­to­ry since the pat­terns of vio­lent con­flict are deter­mined and recur­ring in nature. This inter­pre­ta­tion is fur­ther sub­stan­ti­at­ed by a clos­er look at the for­mal and aes­thet­ic devices used to con­struct the nar­ra­tive.

Cinematic Excess and Media Memory

As the analy­sis of the nar­ra­tive strate­gies sug­gests, Munich is rely­ing on the prin­ci­ples of con­fronta­tion. Con­fronta­tion is shaped on the lev­el of char­ac­ter inter­ac­tion, but also in regards to its tem­po­ral struc­ture, there­by pro­duc­ing the para­dox of the ‘false’ flash­back as Stephen Howe notes: “And if, as one sup­pos­es, the Munich scenes are sup­posed to be run­ning through Avner's head, we're offered no rea­son why he should be so haunt­ed. He wasn't there. Those scenes weren't even on TV. Why not any of the equal­ly vicious inci­dents he's wit­nessed, or per­pe­trat­ed, him­self ?” Being a dream­like vision on the one hand, but a kind of mem­o­ry on the oth­er, the scene is a ref­er­ence to the insta­bil­i­ty of mem­o­ry expressed by for­mal and styl­is­tic means. Since the flash­backs are not entire­ly plau­si­ble in their rela­tion to the past, they delib­er­ate­ly seem to sur­pass nar­ra­tive con­sis­ten­cy as already not­ed while observ­ing the ambiva­lent rela­tion between sin­gle focus and dual focus nar­ra­tive.

Giv­en this lim­i­ta­tion of a mere­ly nar­ra­to­log­i­cal expla­na­tion the cat­e­go­ry of “style” has to be inte­grat­ed into our analy­sis.[9] Leav­ing a deep­er method­olog­i­cal dis­cus­sion aside I am going to refer to style in the sense of neo­for­mal­ist film the­o­ry, most promi­nent­ly asso­ci­at­ed with David Bor­d­well and Kristin Thomp­son. Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, style results from the repeat­ed use of cer­tain filmic tech­niques, which usu­al­ly tend to be cam­ou­flaged through nar­ra­tive motivation—at least in clas­si­cal Hol­ly­wood cin­e­ma (Thomp­son 488). The fore­ground­ing of filmic tech­niques (or devices) then could be termed “excess,” as Kristin Thomp­son sug­gests:

Style is the use of repeat­ed tech­niques which become char­ac­ter­is­tic of the work; these tech­niques are fore­ground­ed so that the spec­ta­tor will notice them and cre­ate con­nec­tions between their indi­vid­ual uses. Excess does not equal style, but the two are close­ly linked because they both involve the mate­r­i­al aspects of the film. Excess forms no spe­cif­ic pat­terns which we could say are char­ac­ter­is­tic of the work. But the for­mal orga­ni­za­tion pro­vid­ed by style does not exhaust the mate­r­i­al of the filmic tech­niques, and a spectator's atten­tion to style might well lead to a notic­ing of excess as well. (489)

In Munich, two par­tic­u­lar devices reveal the ten­sion between style and excess as they linger on the thin line between the uni­fy­ing and the dis­uni­fy­ing struc­tures of the film,[10] and both are asso­ci­at­ed with the nar­ra­tive con­flict. The first device is the series of (false) flash­backs pre­sent­ing the Munich mas­sacre as a tem­plate for Avner’s per­son­al devel­op­ment. Since its recap to the past can­not be explained by Avner’s per­spec­tive alone, it is intrin­si­cal­ly linked to the sec­ond device, which could be termed ‘media reflec­tion,’ refer­ring to the strate­gic use of the tele­vi­sion medi­um in the filmic rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

Since Munich’s ini­tial encounter with the mas­sacre as a media event is high­light­ing the role of tele­vi­sion as an actor with­in the event, the analy­sis starts with an exam­i­na­tion of the film’s strat­e­gy of ‘media reflec­tion’ before turn­ing back to the flash­back. In his Essay “Zwis­chen Selb­stre­flex­iv­ität und Selb­stre­f­er­en­tial­ität” (Between self-reflex­iv­i­ty and self-ref­er­en­tial­i­ty) Ger­man film the­o­rist Kay Kirch­mann sug­gests the con­cept of self-reflex­iv­i­ty for the self-por­tray­al of the medi­um film with­in films: To show itself, film has to account for its own sta­tus (68). How­ev­er, this sta­tus is not clear­ly defined, because like any oth­er medi­um film can be defined by very dif­fer­ent con­stituents. Always accord­ing to the actu­al def­i­n­i­tion employed it might be seen either as aes­thet­ic prod­uct, mass medi­um, com­mu­ni­ca­tion device, per­cep­tion­al matrix, sign sys­tem, com­mod­i­ty, or instru­ment of pro­pa­gan­da. Thus, if “a self-reflex­ive film address­es one or more of its con­stituents” (68), it has dif­fer­ent options to reflect about itself as a medi­um. Draw­ing on this con­cept of filmic self-reflex­iv­i­ty, I sug­gest its adap­ta­tion to the filmic por­tray­al of oth­er media, for instance the filmic reflec­tion of tele­vi­sion as seen in Munich. This ‘media reflec­tion’ is pre­dom­i­nant­ly shaped in the mon­tage of the tele­vi­sion event at the begin­ning, but also on three oth­er occa­sions through­out the film: The con­tin­u­ous motif being its cou­pling to cov­er­age about ter­ror­ist action.

The ini­tial event scene, which by far is the most com­plex and elab­o­rat­ed reflec­tion, func­tions as a tem­plate for the lat­er ones, which basi­cal­ly oper­ate on evok­ing the cues pre­sent­ed ear­li­er. As argued above—in the analy­sis of film’s beginning—the mon­tage draws togeth­er all actors in the scheme of the ter­ror­ist event. Per­pe­tra­tors, vic­tims, police forces, polit­i­cal actors, and audi­ences are ren­dered equal as spec­ta­tors and observers—not only of the event in Munich, but also of the way tele­vi­sion con­structs the event (fig. 10). Repeat­ed­ly and in quick suc­ces­sions shot and reverse shot com­bi­na­tions mark the rela­tion between the spec­ta­tors and the tele­vi­sion screen (fig. 20 and fig. 21), estab­lish­ing the sta­tus of the mass medi­um: All indi­vid­ual spec­ta­tors see the same pic­tures of the event, thus becom­ing a uni­fied mass audi­ence despite their geo­graph­i­cal sep­a­ra­tion.

Fig. 20

Fig. 21

The stag­ing of a (glob­al) mass audi­ence also indi­cates the per­me­ation of soci­ety by tele­vi­sion: The tele­vi­sion screen becomes the cen­ter of pub­lic atten­tion (fig. 22) as well as the cen­ter of the pri­vate homes; Israeli and Pales­tin­ian com­mu­ni­ties alike gath­er around the screen to fol­low the event (fig. 23), and even the (Israeli) politi­cians and the mil­i­tary join in (fig. 20), not hav­ing a priv­i­leged per­cep­tion in com­par­i­son to the ‘nor­mal’ peo­ple.

Fig. 22

Fig. 23

A con­stant empha­sis is placed on the emo­tion­al impact of the tele­vi­sion broad­cast, defin­ing the medi­um over its affec­tive impact: From the cheer­ing Pales­tini­ans[11] at the begin­ning of the event, over the cry­ing and mourn­ing rel­a­tives (fig. 24) of both the hostages and the hijack­ers in the tur­moil of events, onto Avn­er Kauff­man, shown as a devout spec­ta­tor-par­tic­i­pant of the memo­r­i­al cer­e­mo­ny (fig. 12).

Fig. 24

Munich goes even fur­ther, sug­gest­ing that the ‘win­dow on the world’ allows—and maybe even forces—communities not only to observe real events, but to par­tic­i­pate emo­tion­al­ly. In its shock­ing­ly real char­ac­ter, the vio­lent event gains a quite hyp­not­ic qual­i­ty, clear­ly sig­ni­fied by the recur­rent close-ups of the spec­ta­tors with their eyes fix­at­ed on the tele­vi­sion screen.

In this sense, the spec­ta­tors shown in Munich are rather help­less vic­tims of the vio­lent intru­sion of the medi­um into their homes: Their per­cep­tion is firm­ly defined by the con­fine­ments of the tele­vi­sion screen which inevitably tends to over­whelm. While this pro­ce­dure is also repeat­ed for the spec­ta­tor of the film Munich, he is grant­ed the priv­i­lege to step back and reflect on occa­sion. Cen­tral to this is the expo­si­tion of the pro­duc­tion infra­struc­ture of tele­vi­sion, show­ing the stu­dio, the cam­eras, and the reporters involved in the per­for­mance of the media event (fig. 25).

Fig. 25

How­ev­er, the pic­tures the film spec­ta­tor dives into when the film cuts into the broad­cast do not have the same fic­tion­al sta­tus as the rest of the film, but are his­tor­i­cal file footage from the media event itself. Thus the real­i­ty effect of the event is repro­duced in the film as a move­ment from the dis­tanced spec­ta­tor, who sees tele­vi­sion as anoth­er nest­ed frame with­in the film frame, to the involved and par­tic­i­pat­ing spec­ta­tor when the cam­era moves into the screens, dis­solv­ing their bound­aries and mak­ing the his­tor­i­cal pic­tures fill the whole screen (fig. 26).

Fig. 26

In sum, tele­vi­sion is por­trayed as an actor with­in the frame­work of the ter­ror­ist event—and more­over even por­trayed as the frame­work itself. In the course of the film, this prin­ci­ple is evoked three more times, always forc­ing the atten­tion of Avn­er and his team­mates towards the screen. At these occa­sions they learn about the actions of their sup­posed oppo­nents and feel the com­pul­sion to react on it. In the first instance, they observe a suc­cess­ful air­plane hijack­ing, grim­ly declar­ing the Pales­tin­ian hijack­ers “movie stars.” In the sec­ond instance, it is a bomb attack in suc­ces­sion of their sec­ond killing mis­sion, lead­ing them to the con­clu­sion: “They are talk­ing to us. We're in dia­logue now.” The third and last instance of tele­vi­sion reflec­tion takes place when Avn­er is meet­ing with Louis, the French infor­mant, show­ing anoth­er bomb attack—while the tele­vi­sion is main­ly pre­sent­ed in the back­ground (fig. 27) it abrupt­ly gains impor­tance when we see the screen vio­lence in close-up (fig. 28).

Fig. 27

Fig. 28

Notably the edit­ing echoes the shock-like intru­sion of the media event in the first instance. Notably, the pres­ence of tele­vi­sion gets weak­er in the course of the film—they only take place before Avner’s sec­ond flash­back, thus being only inter­twined with his actions in the phase of the suc­cess­ful oper­a­tions, but not in the phase of their grad­u­al­ly fail­ing mis­sion.

The struc­ture of the oth­er device, the flash­backs, seems to be of a dif­fer­ent kind, though clear­ly relat­ed to the ‘media reflec­tion.’ As indi­cat­ed above, their sta­tus is ambiva­lent in rela­tion to the his­tor­i­cal real­i­ty of the die­ge­sis: First­ly, the ini­tial sequence—following the title “inspired by real events” —is depict­ed in the aes­thet­ics of the lat­er flash­backs, thus sug­gest­ing that we enter the diegetic real­i­ty of the film. Only lat­er on, after expe­ri­enc­ing the flash­backs in Avner’s imag­i­na­tion, the sta­tus of this real­i­ty can be ques­tioned. In this sense, the spec­ta­tor is thrown into twofold uncer­tain­ty, as they is not only forced to nego­ti­ate the ‘real’ against the per­cep­tion of the media event, but also against the mix­ture of mem­o­ry and imag­i­na­tion in Avner’s flash­back. Fur­ther­more, the filmic device of the flash­back itself adds to the uncer­tain­ty. Accord­ing to Mau­reen Cheryn Turim’s sem­i­nal work Flash­backs in Film, the flash­back is “a priv­i­leged moment in unfold­ing that jux­ta­pos­es dif­fer­ent moments of tem­po­ral ref­er­ence” (1), there­by cre­at­ing an intrin­sic link between sub­jec­tive mem­o­ry and objec­tive his­to­ry: “[…] flash­backs in film often merge the two modes of remem­ber­ing the past, giv­ing large-scale social and polit­i­cal his­to­ry the sub­jec­tive mode of a sin­gle, fic­tion­al individual's remem­bered expe­ri­ence” (2). Like­wise in Avner’s case the frame of remem­ber­ing is clear­ly linked to the indi­vid­ual, taint­ed with the pos­si­bil­i­ty of fail­ure and distortion—yet its fac­tu­al con­tent not nego­tiable since we learnt about the death of the hostages (and hijack­ers alike) through tele­vi­sion. In this sense the spec­ta­tor again is made aware of the unre­li­a­bil­i­ty of the rep­re­sen­ta­tion, as they expe­ri­ences dif­fer­ent modes of his­tor­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion, which all have their inher­ent defi­cien­cies in claim­ing the truth. Regard­ing the ini­tial sequence the spec­ta­tor is even turned into a test sub­ject as they is first made to believe the sequence being the event as his­to­ry, only to learn lat­er on that its reli­a­bil­i­ty might be flawed.

But the impli­ca­tions of using the flash­back in fram­ing Avner’s mem­o­ry could extend well beyond the ques­tion of his­tor­i­cal objec­tiv­i­ty when pro­ject­ed on the shape of his­to­ry in gen­er­al:

Many flash­back nar­ra­tions con­tain an ele­ment of philo­soph­i­cal fatal­ism, cou­pled with psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic fatal­ism […]. This fatal­ism presents a cyn­i­cal view of his­to­ry cycli­cal, guar­an­teed to repeat that which we have already seen; the release from the rep­e­ti­tions inher­ent in his­to­ry is then forged in a sin­gu­lar solu­tion that serves a pre­vail­ing ide­ol­o­gy, such as patri­ot­ic iden­ti­fi­ca­tions or a retreat into the ‘per­son­al’ as a micro­cos­mic, ide­al­ized world. (18)

The tem­plate of Munich seems to shine through Turim’s lines when con­sid­er­ing the flash­back struc­ture: The first flash­back ini­ti­ates Avner’s mis­sion by repeat­ing the begin­ning assault in the Olympic vil­lage. Inter­est­ing­ly, the first severe injury explic­it­ly exposed for the cam­era is a gun­shot through both cheeks, leav­ing a blood-leak­ing wound in the face of the ath­lete (fig. 29), fol­lowed by a zoom to close-up and a dead­lock of eye­lines between shoot­er and vic­tim, the vic­tim cov­er­ing the wound with his hand (fig. 30).

Fig. 29

Fig. 30

Then the musi­cal score is increas­ing­ly dom­i­nat­ing the diegetic noise of the sequence, even silenc­ing the final machine­gun sal­vo, while the dead­ly actions are stretched sig­nif­i­cant­ly through the use of slow motion. Time is vir­tu­al­ly sus­pend­ed when the blood stained wall is fad­ing into the red morn­ing sky (fig. 15) and the inter­lude ends with Avn­er tak­ing off his wed­ding ring (fig. 16). In rela­tion to the first scene of the film, the flash­back fills an ellip­sis: While vio­lence was most­ly spared dur­ing tele­vi­sion cov­er­age of the event, Avner’s vision por­trays it in very explic­it and high­ly dra­mat­ic form. A strik­ing alle­go­ry for the return of some­thing repressed; and put dif­fer­ent­ly: the result of a trau­ma, the Greek word with the mean­ing of “wound” or “injury” (see Eggers 602). Hard­ly sur­pris­ing, its def­i­n­i­tion in terms of psy­cho­analy­sis and cul­tur­al trau­ma the­o­ry reads like the char­ac­ter pro­file of Avn­er Kauff­man, accord­ing to Wulf Kantstein­er:

[…] the trau­ma vic­tim exists in a state of tem­po­ral lim­bo caught between a destruc­tive event that did not reg­is­ter at the moment of its occur­rence, and the belat­ed symp­toms that uncon­scious­ly and obses­sive­ly repeat the injury to the person's pro­tec­tive shield with­out adding to the victim's under­stand­ing of her own fate. (203)

Accord­ing to Eggers the rep­e­ti­tion of the injury can sur­face in the var­i­ous forms, most com­mon­ly how­ev­er as flash­backs, hal­lu­ci­na­tions, and com­pul­sive actions (see Eggers 602). Fur­ther­more, trau­mat­ic mem­o­ries return unin­ten­tion­al­ly and elude their ver­bal recount­ing. In Munich, the impos­si­bil­i­ty of recount­ing spreads from the first flash­back onwards: While the image of the face wound sym­bol­izes the inabil­i­ty of speak­ing (figs. 29 and 30), the whole scene vir­tu­al­ly lacks the lay­er of ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion and is gen­er­al­ly of lit­tle infor­ma­tion den­si­ty for the progress of the nar­ra­tion. The slow motion might be jus­ti­fied by its dream fram­ing, but also lacks an over­ar­ch­ing nar­ra­tive moti­va­tion, thus rather fore­ground­ing itself as a form of cin­e­mat­ic excess. Such cor­re­spon­dence of form and con­tent is per­pet­u­at­ed through­out the fol­low­ing flash­backs, both see­ing sim­i­lar appro­pri­a­tions of slow motion, musi­cal score, and the lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, thus shap­ing a per­cep­tion of the event that dif­fers con­sid­er­ably from the prece­dent tele­vi­sion cov­er­age. As ana­lyzed in the pre­vi­ous chap­ter they keep par­al­lel­ing Avner’s devel­op­ment, as his fel­low agents, like the Munich hijack­ers, increas­ing­ly become vic­tim­ized them­selves, although they keep on per­pe­trat­ing vio­lence them­selves.

In the third flash­back, the mon­tage of gun­fight, explo­sion, and inter­course, rad­i­cal­izes the self-suf­fi­cient ele­ments, above all the muz­zle flash­es of the machine­guns (fig. 3), which rep­re­sent not only a mise-en-abyme of the con­cept of flash­back itself, but then fig­ure even as an imprint on Avner’s orgas­mic body (fig. 31).

Fig. 31

Fig. 32

There­by not only the time lay­ers of past and present are vig­or­ous­ly inter­twined, but cin­e­mat­ic excess also leaves Avner’s imag­i­na­tion and reveals its impact on his real­i­ty. Even­tu­al­ly, the third flash­back is indeed framed as a “release […] forged in a sin­gu­lar solu­tion that serves a pre­vail­ing ide­ol­o­gy, such as patri­ot­ic iden­ti­fi­ca­tions or a retreat into the ‘per­son­al’ as a micro­cos­mic, ide­al­ized world” (Turim 18): Hands inter­twined with his wife, we see two wed­ding rings in close-up, one of them being of course the one tak­en off in close-up when Avn­er start­ed on his mis­sion (fig. 32). The micro­scop­ic, ide­al­ized world, after all, is the fam­i­ly.

Reel Memories?

The endeav­or of this arti­cle was to high­light the nar­ra­tive struc­ture and the for­mal shape of Munich, look­ing for its strate­gies of cre­at­ing mean­ing beyond the extent of nat­u­ral­ized rep­re­sen­ta­tion und char­ac­ter moti­va­tion. By ana­lyz­ing two par­tic­u­lar tech­niques, which frame the cen­ter of the film’s nar­ra­tive dynam­ic and which man­i­fest deci­sive choic­es of the direc­tor in con­trast to its pre­cur­sors on the sub­ject mat­ter, the impor­tance of such strate­gies could be shown. In this light, the sto­ry of the Israeli counter-ter­ror­ist team on its retal­i­a­tion mis­sion after the Munich mas­sacre is not so much about the spe­cif­ic polit­i­cal sce­nario of the Mid­dle East­ern con­flict, but rather about the mech­a­nism of medi­at­ed ter­ror­ism and its trau­mat­ic effects.

Of course no one ques­tioned that the film was meant to be an alle­go­ry for 9/11 and its after­math as much as it was meant to be a his­tor­i­cal dra­ma. But while char­ac­ter psy­chol­o­gy pri­mar­i­ly draws on the con­cept of iden­ti­ty in rela­tion to cul­tur­al­ly defined notions of com­mu­ni­ty (here most­ly equat­ing Israel with the USA and Black Sep­tem­ber with Al Qai­da), the analy­sis pre­sent­ed rather points at the ques­tion of medi­a­tion: The film avoids to expli­cate the ini­tial vio­lence of the film, thus blur­ring the cat­e­gories of per­cep­tion from the very begin­ning. Sub­se­quent­ly, the event exists for Avn­er (and the spec­ta­tor alike) only as tele­vi­sion images and in his imag­i­na­tion. Although Munich does def­i­nite­ly not deny the real­i­ty of vio­lence, there is sort of a real­i­ty gap when try­ing to grasp the actu­al event behind the cold sur­face of the tele­vi­sion screen. Though tele­vi­sion is able to show glimpses of the vic­tims and the hijack­ers in the course of the event, it even­tu­al­ly does not show them until they are dead and ren­dered stars of the next media events: The memo­r­i­al ser­vice on the one hand and the man hunt on the oth­er. In this sense, tele­vi­sion is pre­sent­ed unable to reflect about the events, and more so, even unable to recap on them as every fol­low­ing instance of tele­vi­sion is deter­mined to repro­duce the spi­ral of vio­lence.

In con­trast, the stage for the reflec­tion of vio­lence is set clear­ly in the flash­backs, although the reflec­tion is not accom­plished by con­scious eval­u­a­tion but rather lit­er­al reflec­tions of the vio­lence most con­cise­ly depict­ed in the flash­es of gun­fire and the overt­ly icon­ic blood­shed. With­in the inter­pre­ta­tive frame of trau­ma the­o­ry this con­curs with the idea of ‘work­ing through’ the trau­ma to estab­lish a sense of mean­ing (and iden­ti­ty) again after a shat­ter­ing expe­ri­ence (see e.g. Kantstein­er 215). His­tor­i­cal­ly notable, even the psy­cho­log­i­cal con­cept of “flash­back” only came into exis­tence after the pro­lif­er­a­tion of the filmic tech­nique (see Turim 5). In this sense, the film por­trays tele­vi­sion as a medi­um with­out the capa­bil­i­ty of mem­o­ry or reflec­tion, and con­trasts it with a gen­uine­ly filmic mode of mem­o­ry that serves to “work through” the trau­ma. Although Avn­er can­not over­come the prob­lem of false mem­o­ry he reach­es his per­son­al solution—and in doing so he repro­duces the films big­ger scheme: His fic­tion, inspired by some­thing real and trau­mat­ic, seems to help him escape the spi­ral of vio­lence. Spielberg’s film thus is maybe not so much a “prayer for peace”, but bet­ter described as a—very graphic—therapy ses­sion.

If the ther­a­py was suc­cess­ful for Avn­er, why isn’t he grant­ed an unam­bigu­ous hap­py end? The polit­i­cal answer was giv­en by Ephraim in the last scene, when he describes the ongo­ing grow­ing of his fin­ger­nails: (Arab) ter­ror­ism is going to con­tin­ue from Munich to New York and pos­si­bly onwards. How­ev­er, the answer of trau­ma the­o­ry is dif­fer­ent: Because the repressed is about to return, maybe unin­ten­tion­al­ly, but most cer­tain­ly with vio­lent force. Stick­ing so close to such inter­pre­ta­tive frame­work of trau­ma Munich is exem­plary for the concept’s intel­lec­tu­al boom—and at the same time is equal­ly exem­plary for the prob­lems asso­ci­at­ed with it: Kantstein­er notes that “[t]he trope of trau­ma has become a com­fort­ing fic­tion of con­ti­nu­ity” (215) and that it “excludes the pos­si­bil­i­ty of rad­i­cal dis­con­ti­nu­ity and indif­fer­ence in the after­math of his­tor­i­cal cat­a­stro­phe, and in this sense rep­re­sents just anoth­er self-cen­tered aca­d­e­m­ic fic­tion” (215). Against the back­ground of this ver­dict we could pon­der which choic­es Spiel­berg had when telling the his­to­ry of the Munich mas­sacre and its aftermath—and whether it would have made sense to irri­tate our sense of his­tor­i­cal con­ti­nu­ity. Even­tu­al­ly, the answer might be locat­ed in the prag­mat­ics of the filmic medi­um: As long as tele­vi­sion can be regard­ed as the pri­ma­ry mode of shap­ing his­to­ry as a con­tin­u­ous and utter­ly obliv­i­ous flow, the stage is set for films to con­struct reflec­tive stances towards mem­o­ry and his­to­ry. In doing so, how­ev­er, they can­not over­come the implic­it assump­tions of their styl­is­tic lan­guage and com­pul­sive­ly turn every ‘real event’ into a ‘reel event.’

Works Cited

Alt­man, Rick. A the­o­ry of nar­ra­tive. New York: Colum­bia UP, 2008. Print.

Ass­mann, Alei­da. Erin­nerungsräume. Munich: Ver­lag C.H. Beck, 1999. Print.

Avn­ery, Uri. “Von Rache zu Rache.” Rev. of Munich dir. Steven Spiel­berg. Transl. Ellen Rohlfs. Auro​ra​-Mag​a​zin​.at. Auro­ra-Mag­a­zin, n.d. Web. 20 Feb 2013. <http://​www​.auro​ra​m​agazin​.at/​g​e​s​e​l​l​s​c​h​a​f​t​/​a​v​n​e​r​y​_​r​a​c​h​e​_​f​r​m​.​htm>

Bartz, Christi­na: “Flash­back.” Gedächt­nis und Erin­nerung. Ein inter­diszi­plinäres Lexikon. Ed. Mar­tin Korte und Nico­las Pethes. Rein­bek bei Ham­burg: Rowohlt-Taschen­buch-Ver­lag, 2001. 175–76. Print.

Berar­dinel­li, James. Rev. of Munich dir. Steven Spiel­berg. Reelviews​.net. Reelviews, 2005. Web. 20 Feb 2013. <http://​www​.reelviews​.net/​m​o​v​i​e​s​/​m​/​m​u​n​i​c​h​.​h​tml>

Bor­d­well, David, Kristin Thomp­son. Film art. An intro­duc­tion. 8th ed. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008. Print.

Eggers, Michael. “Trau­ma.” Gedächt­nis und Erin­nerung. Ein inter­diszi­plinäres Lexikon. Ed. Mar­tin Korte und Nico­las Pethes. Rein­bek bei Ham­burg: Rowohlt-Taschen­buch-Ver­lag, 2001. 602–04. Print.

Foy, Joseph J. “Ter­ror­ism, Coun­tert­er­ror­ism, and ‘The Sto­ry of What Hap­pens Next’ in Munich.” Steven Spiel­berg and phi­los­o­phy. We're gonna need a big­ger book. Ed. Dean A. Kowal­s­ki. Lex­ing­ton, Ky: UP of Ken­tucky, 2008. 170–87. Print.

Gold­berg, Michelle. “Steven Spielberg’s Con­tro­ver­sial New Film: The War on ‘Munich.’” Spiegel Online. 20 Dec 2005. Web. 20 Feb 2013. <http://​www​.spiegel​.de/​i​n​t​e​r​n​a​t​i​o​n​a​l​/​s​t​e​v​e​n​-​s​p​i​e​l​b​e​r​g​-​s​-​c​o​n​t​r​o​v​e​r​s​i​a​l​-​n​e​w​-​f​i​l​m​-​t​h​e​-​w​a​r​-onmunich-a-391525.html>

Howe, Stephen. “’Munich’: Spielberg’s fail­ure.” Rev. of Munich dir. Steven Spiel­berg. Open Democ­ra­cy. 26 Jan 2006. Web. 15 Feb 2013 <http://​www​.open​democ​ra​cy​.net/​a​r​t​s​F​i​l​m​/​m​u​n​i​c​h​_​3​2​1​6​.​jsp>

Kantstein­er, Wulf. “Geneal­o­gy of a Cat­e­go­ry Mis­take: A Crit­i­cal Intel­lec­tu­al His­to­ry of the Cul­tur­al Trau­ma Metaphor.” Rethink­ing His­to­ry 8.2 (2004): 193–221. Print.

Kirch­mann, Kay. “Zwis­chen Selb­stre­flex­iv­ität und Selb­stre­f­er­en­tial­ität. Zur Ästhetik des Selb­st­bezüglichen als filmis­ch­er Moder­nität.” Im Spiegelk­a­bi­nett der Illu­sio­nen. Filme über sich selb­st. Arnold­shain­er Filmge­spräche 13. Ed. Ernst Karpf. Mar­burg: Schüren, 1996. 67–86. Print.

Klein, Susanne. Ter­ror, Ter­ror­is­mus und Reli­gion. Pop­uläre Kinofilme nach 9/11. Jena: IKSGara­mond, 2009. Print.

Jonas, George. Vengeance: The True Sto­ry of an Israeli Counter-Ter­ror­ist Team. Toron­to: Lester & Orpen/Collins, 1984. Print.

Jonas, George. “The Spiel­berg mas­sacre.” Rev. of Munich dir. Steven Spiel­berg. George​jonas​.ca. 7 Jan 2006. Web. 28 Feb 2013. <http://​www​.george​jonas​.ca/​r​e​c​e​n​t​_​w​r​i​t​i​n​g​.​a​s​p​x​?​i​d​=​382>

Kepel, Gilles, Jean-Pierre Milel­li. Al-Qai­da dans le texte. Transl. Jean-Pierre Milel­li. Paris: Press Uni­ver­si­taires, 2005.

McCarthy, Todd. Rev. of Munich dir. Steven Spiel­berg. Vari­ety.com. Vari­ety 9 Dec 2005. Web. 1 Feb 2013. <http://​www​.vari​ety​.com/​r​e​v​i​e​w​/​V​E​1​1​1​7​9​2​9​0​8​1​/​?​r​e​f​c​a​t​i​d​=​4​1​5​4​&​p​r​i​n​t​e​r​f​r​i​e​n​d​l​y​=​t​rue>

Mel­man, Yos­si, Steven Har­tov. “Munich: fact and fan­ta­sy. The​guardian​.com. 17 Jan 2006. Web. 25 May 2014. <http://​www​.the​guardian​.com/​f​i​l​m​/​2​0​0​6​/​j​a​n​/​1​7​/​i​s​r​a​e​l​a​n​d​t​h​e​p​a​l​e​s​t​i​n​i​a​n​s​.​w​o​rld>

Munich. Dir. Steven Spiel­berg. Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios, Dream­works, 2005. DVD.

Schick­el, Richard. Spiel­berg. A ret­ro­spec­tive. Lon­don: Thames & Hud­son, 2012. Print.

Schoen­feld, Gabriel. Rev. of Munich dir. Steven Spiel­berg. Com­men­tary Mag­a­zine. Com­men­tary, Feb 2006. Web. 20 Feb 2013. <http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/spielberg%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Cmunich%E2%80%9D/>.

Such­s­land, Rüdi­ger. “Das Blut des Ter­rors und die Milch der Fik­tion.” Rev. of Munich dir.

Steven Spiel­berg. Tele­po­lis. Heise Zeitschriften Ver­lag, 26 Jan 2006. Web. 20 Feb 2013. <http://​www​.heise​.de/​t​p​/​a​r​t​i​k​e​l​/​2​1​/​2​1​8​7​1​/​1​.​h​tml>.

Sword of Gideon. Dir. Michael Ander­son. Alliance Enter­tain­ment, 1986. DVD.

Thomp­son, Kristin. “The Con­cept of Cin­e­mat­ic Excess.” Film the­o­ry and crit­i­cism. Intro­duc­to­ry read­ings. Ed. Leo Braudy und Mar­shall Cohen. New York: Oxford UP, 1999. 487–98. Print.

Turim, Mau­reen Cheryn. Flash­backs in film. Mem­o­ry & his­to­ry. New York: Rout­ledge, 1989.

Wieselti­er, Leon. “The case against Munich.” Rev. of Munich dir. Steven Spiel­berg. Jew­ish World Review, 15 Dec 2005. Web. 31 Jan 2013. <http://​jew​ish​worl​dreview​.com/​1​2​0​5​/​m​u​n​i​c​h​.​p​hp3>.

Image Notes

All images are screen­shots from Munich. Dir. Steven Spiel­berg. Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios, Dream­works, 2005. DVD.

Fig­ure 1: Title “Inspired by real events”

Fig­ure 2: Final shot show­ing the sky­line of New York includ­ing the Twin Tow­ers

Fig­ure 3: Pales­tin­ian hijack­er shoot­ing with a machine gun

Fig­ure 4: Avn­er Kauffman’s cli­max inter­cut with the gun­fight at Fürsten­feld­bruck air­field

Fig­ure 5: Avn­er hes­i­tates before he trig­gers the bomb

Fig­ure 6: Avn­er awak­ing from a night­mare

Fig­ure 7: Team dis­cus­sion

Fig­ure 8: The hijack­ers climb­ing the fence of the Olympic vil­lage

Fig­ure 9: The begin­ning of the assault

Fig­ure 10: TV con­trol room

Fig­ure 11: The hijack­ers watch­ing them­selves

Fig­ure 12: Avn­er watch­ing the event

Fig­ure 13: Names and pic­tures of the vic­tims on TV

Fig­ure 14: Names and pic­tures of the orga­niz­ers in the Mossad head­quar­ters

Fig­ure 15: Fad­ing from the first flash­back back to real­i­ty again

Fig­ure 16: Avn­er takes of his wed­ding ring at the begin­ning of the mis­sion

Fig­ure 17: Stum­bling hijack­er look­ing ter­ri­fied

Fig­ure 18: The team focused on the TV dur­ing fur­ther ter­ror­ism cov­er­age

Fig­ure 19: Stale­mate between the Israeli and Pales­tin­ian team

Fig­ure 20: Intelligence/military offi­cials watch­ing the TV event

Fig­ure 21: Reverse shot show­ing BBC anchor Peter Jen­ning on screen

Fig­ure 22: Pub­lic view­ing in Israel (loca­tion indi­cat­ed by the sub­ti­tles on the screen in an adja­cent shot)

Fig­ure 23: Cheer­ing Pales­tini­ans dur­ing pub­lic view­ing

Fig­ure 24: Cry­ing spec­ta­tor

Fig­ure 25: Reporters on loca­tion with cam­eras rolling

Fig­ure 26: Reporter on the tele­vi­sion screen

Fig­ure 27: Avn­er talk­ing to his infor­mant Louis, TV run­ning in the back­ground

Fig­ure 28: Close-up of the tele­vi­sion screen adja­cent to Avner’s con­ver­sa­tion with the infor­mant

Fig­ure 29: Israeli ath­lete after being shot in the face

Fig­ure 30: Israeli ath­lete cov­er­ing his cheek wound

Fig­ure 31: Imprint of the muz­zle-flash on Avner’s orgas­mic body

Fig­ure 32: Avn­er and his wife. Hands inter­twined with wed­ding rings.

End Notes

[1] The arti­cle by Michelle Gold­berg serves also as a con­cise over the polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed debate over Munich in Decem­ber 2005 and Jan­u­ary 2006.

[2] This is not an awk­ward choice since Islamist ter­ror­ism car­ried out by Al Qai­da gains much of its moti­va­tion from the Mid­dle East­ern con­flict between Pales­tine and Israel, as the speech­es of Osama bin Ladin sug­gest (see Kepel, Milel­li). On the oth­er hand, one deci­sive dif­fer­ence between Black Sep­tem­ber in the 1970s and Al Qai­da is their spir­i­tu­al foundation—the lat­ter based on reli­gious beliefs, while the for­mer is rest­ing on mere­ly polit­i­cal grounds (see Klein 92–93).

[3] The exam­ple pre­sent­ed by Alt­man for the hyper­bol­ic are the Grail sto­ries, whose sin­gle episodes show no explic­it inter­re­la­tion beyond their for­mal coex­is­tence; anoth­er way of under­stand­ing the con­cept might be the sur­re­al­ist mode of mon­tage thriv­ing “on the unex­pect­ed, the appar­ent­ly uncon­nect­ed” (Alt­man 26).

[4] The suc­ces­sion and the lay­ers of the mon­tage do not allow for a defin­i­tive seg­men­ta­tion into dif­fer­ent loca­tions and actors. How­ev­er, this is not the pri­ma­ry con­cern as the deci­sive obser­va­tion is the occur­rence of the high num­ber mod­u­la­tions between fol­low­ing-units that cre­ates the whole part.

[5] The term refers to the bat­tle trau­ma of sol­diers explained by Alei­da Ass­mann in her sem­i­nal work Erin­nerungsräume (Mem­o­ry Spaces, 278).

[6] She is still too young to speak prop­er, she rather makes baby nois­es.

[7] The hijack­ers pressed the Ger­man gov­ern­ment for air­borne tran­sit to Egypt, while Ger­man forces pre­pared for a raid at the army air­base.

[8] Notabene: This is refer­ring to the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the film, since there is no doubt what­so­ev­er about the very phys­i­cal con­flict in the Mid­dle East over decades now.

[9] Notably this already hap­pened implic­it­ly, for instance when mon­tage pat­terns were explained dur­ing the nar­ra­to­log­i­cal analy­sis.

[10] For a detailed dis­cus­sion of the rela­tion between “uni­fy­ing” and “dis­uni­fy­ing” ele­ments also see Kristin Thompson’s “The Con­cept of Cin­e­mat­ic Excess” (489–91).

[11] This par­tic­u­lar snip­pet recalls the CNN footage on Sep­tem­ber 11 2001 show­ing cheer­ing crowds in the streets of Gaza.


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