In 1995, Yigal Amir, an Israeli law student, shot and killed Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister of Israel. How did this extraordinary state of affairs come to pass? That’s the question that Yaron Zilberman’s 2019 film Incitement explores: the story is told from Amir’s point of view, and the series of events we observe over this film’s 123 minutes offer a plausible explanation of how Amir went from being just one Jewish university student among many to an assassin who killed the leader of his country.
Amir is portrayed with such great humanity by Yehuda Nahari, who creates a character that is sincere, charming, and yet increasingly frightening. The latter vibe stems primarily from Amir’s attitude that he is always 100% right about everything, a point of view from which much evil has been spawned, and the steps he takes over the course of the film to make his ideas reality (his similarity to terrorists and assassins of other ethnicities is not far to seek). But the scariness develops of the course of the movie, after we’ve had a chance to meet and come to like Amir the clever charmer.
In an early scene, we see Amir talk his way out of being arrested by claiming first that a police record will ruin his chances to become a lawyer, and then that his (entirely fictional) imminent marriage will be derailed if the bride-to-be learns he has been in trouble with the police. Had the latter ploy not worked, you feel he would have next invented a sick mother whose heart he doesn’t want to break, and so on and so forth until he got what he wanted. This scene serves two other purposes as well. First, it demonstrates that Amir understands the country in which he lives, including the advantages he enjoys as a Jew, and that he’s more than willing to use those advantages to get what he wants. Second, it’s the equivalent of placing a gun on the mantelpiece, since Amir will use those same talents and advantages to carry out the assassination.
He may not have a wedding scheduled in the near future, but Amir does have a girl he’s sweet on—a settler’s daughter named Nava (Daniella Kertesz), whom he tries to impress by telling her how he, a Yemeni immigrant, got admitted to a high-ranking Ashkenazi school. She’s a nice person, and is interested in him, but he blows it by inviting her home to meet his parents (good) without mentioning that about 20 other people would also be there (not good). The crowd, and his imperious attitude that she’s essentially already agreed to marry him, send Nava packing and leave Amir frustrated. Instead of learning from the experience, however, he doubles down on his attitude that if he doesn’t already know it, it’s not worth knowing.
Incitement is shot in a naturalistic style and incorporates lots of contemporary archival footage, making it so documentary-like that you may need to remind yourself that what you’re watching is a fictional portrayal of real events rather than the events themselves. It’s a credit to everyone involved in the film, including screenwriters Zilberman, Ron Leshem, and Yair Hizmi, cinematographer Amit Yasur, and film editors Shira Arad and Yonatan Weinstein, as well as the large cast and director, that Incitement achieves so overwhelming a feeling of reality while also offering the kind of psychological insight that you can only get in a fictional film. It won Best Film and Best Casting at the 2019 Israeli Film Academy Awards, and was Israel’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2019 Academy Awards. | Sarah Boslaugh
Incitement is distributed on DVD by Kino Lorber. I review it via screening link, but according to the Kino Lorber website, the disc includes the film’s trailer.