Family vs. State in the film Munich (2005)

An interesting dynamic presented in the film Munich is the relationship between the family and the “state.”  In the context of this film, the term “state” refers to Israel.  After eleven Israelis at the 1972 Summer Olympics were captured and killed by the Palestinian group Black September, the Israeli government secretly recruited Avner and four other individuals as a part of the group Mossad.  They were to assassinate eleven individuals who supposedly had a role in planning the kidnapping and murder of the eleven Israelis at the Olympics in Munich.  In order to serve Israel, Avner must leave his home while his wife, Daphna, is pregnant with their first child.  Even though Munich focuses on the assassination attempts by Mossad, the film subtly displays the difficulties an individual encounters when making sacrifices for their state.

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Image 1: Avner serving Hans at the dinner table (Time stamp 00:27::26).

After Avner leaves his wife to carry out the mission given by the state, he essentially becomes the head figure of the new family created under Mossad.  When the viewer first sees the other members assigned with Avner, they are sitting down at the dinner table preparing to eat (Image 1).  I find it interesting that director Steven Spielberg placed the new group together for the first time in a family setting.  By eating together, they share a simple yet important family experience.  In a way, the group tries to forget that they have left their families by attempting to form their own.  By coming closer together, they were better able to work with one another to accomplish the assassinations.

An important scene in the film emphasizing the importance of family occurs as Avner sees his daughter for the first time in the hospital.  While discussing their future, Avner tells his wife that he wants her and the baby to move to New York.  Worried, she conveys her doubts that if they move, their daughter will not be a true Israeli.  However, Avner expresses that wherever they are will be his true home.  The entire experience is incredibly conflicting for Avner, who wants to be with his family.

As the assassinations continue and his paranoia increases, Avner is at his breaking point.  Towards the end of the film, he is still searching for Ali Hassan Salameh, the mastermind behind the killings at the 1972 Summer Olympics.  In order to get information on his whereabouts, Avner speaks with his informant, Louis.  In front of a home furnishings store, Louis tells Avner where Salameh is located.  However, Louis notices that Avner truly misses his family.  Referring to Salameh, Louis says:

LOUIS: Eliminate him and they’ll let you go home, don’t you think?

AVNER: Yes Louis I do.

LOUIS: You could have a kitchen like that someday.  It cost dearly but home always does. 

For Avner, the fight to return “home” has been incredibly difficult.  Through his conversation with Louis, Avner is better able to realize that being with his family requires sacrifices.  Not only has he physically sacrificed by putting his life in danger, but he has also suffered emotionally by killing others while also being away from his family.  Munich stresses that the family is an important yet essential sacrifice that must be made in order to protect and serve one’s state.  By the end of the movie, Avner speculates whether or not the services he provided for Israel were truly related to the killings at the Olympics.  He also questions if his sacrifice had any value.  Ultimately, he decides to abandon Israel, the state he fought to protect, in order to be “home” with his family in New York.

-Paige T.

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