The Movie Waffler New to Prime Video - IMAGE OF VICTORY | The Movie Waffler

New to Prime Video - IMAGE OF VICTORY

New to Prime Video - IMAGE OF VICTORY
An Egyptian filmmaker finds his loyalty tested in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Avi Nesher

Starring: Amir Khoury, Joy Rieger, Ala Dakka, Eliana Tidhar, Tom Avni

Image of Victory poster

Firstly, a historical outline (cribbed from the usual sources):

Founded in 1943, Kibbutz Nitzanim was an Israeli village enclosed by Arab localities. Under the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, the small area was located inside the enemy state, leaving Kibbutz Nitzanim completely isolated following December 31st, 1947. Under constant attack between 1947 to 1948, the Jewish farmers who worked on the kibbutz duly used old rifles and good old mut to defend the cooperative. Evacuation was not an option, as Israel's principle aim during the war was the ‘continuation of normal life’ (the possibility was further confounded by the 360 enclosure of Nitzanim). The encirclement of the kibbutz meant that Nitzanim’s fall (a grand verb for such a marginal territory) was easily enacted on June 7th, 1948, when the Egyptian army achieved its first major victory as the remaining Israelis surrendered to their sustained strike. Lives lost, their home destroyed, the surviving Israelis were then denounced by the IDF and the state as cowards. They were farmers.

Image of Victory review

Approbation from the residents of Nitzanim led to probes into the battle, and, much later, a subsequent exoneration of the defenders. In a further balancing of the scales, Avi Nesher’s (director/writer along with Liraz Brosh and Ehud Bleiberg) Image of Victory recounts the weeks leading up to the attack and the eventual (horrific) battle itself. In an intriguingly even-handed approach, we see events from two perspectives: that of an idealistic film director, commissioned by the Egyptian army to produce propaganda (Hassanein - Amir Khoury), and through the plucky denizens of the kibbutz (with a focus on Mira, played by Joy Rieger in a fantastic performance). Via these characters the film depicts an inevitable erosion of youthful optimism into bitterness and gloom. Hassanein is inspired by Capra to capture ‘real people’ and tell human stories: he ends up filming the shooting of a young woman by an entire platoon.

Image of Victory review

For a story with such a grim denouement (which is heralded in the first scene by an elder Hassanein ranting about the present-day Camp David Accords), Nesher’s film is, for the most part, alive with joy. The Jewish workers are a happy go lucky lot, bursting into songs and presenting a grab bag of recognisable archetypes: the joker, the lovelorn, the serious poet (although a problem with the film is the shorthand nature of the characters), while Hassanein’s experience is initially gentle, with the army coming across at first as fair and reasonable. The kibbutz residents' amateur pratfalls are mined for comedy, and at one point a raid on a car is soundtracked by swing music. This cheerful approach, of course, serves to make the swift and unavoidable violence all the more incongruous.

Image of Victory review

Amit Yasur’s photography is gorgeous, with lush historical detail portrayed with a clean and poppy sheen. Image of Victory is coming to streaming platforms soon, and it’s the sort of film which will look good still on the smaller screen, with a deeply realised 1940s milieu. Courtesy of Hassanein, we see events through the different textures of newsreel footage and are invited to contemplate the nature and purpose of cinema; the unknowable truth behind stolen images, and perhaps the artificiality of Image of Victory itself. While Nesher’s film is at times thrillingly impressive, it perhaps ultimately doesn’t quite fulfil its ambitions. Nonetheless, with its non-partisan storytelling and vivid visuals Image of Victory is a Sunday afternoon epic that doesn’t disappoint.

Image of Victory is on Prime Video UK now.

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