Golda: The Movie
At 2:05 pm on Yom Kippur, Saturday, October 6, 1973, the Egyptian military forces unleashed their whole might against Israel. One of the largest standing armies in the world with 600,000 soldiers, 2,000 tanks, 2,300 pieces of artillery, 160 SAM missiles, and 550 combat planes, Egypt was now convinced it would be able to accomplish what it did not in the 1967 war.
At the same time, and in full coordination, Syria’s 70,000 soldiers equipped with 655 artillery pieces, 300 airplanes, and 1,500 tanks attacked Israel in the north.
Holding the 110 miles of the Canal, separated in bunkers, seven to ten miles apart were 436 inexperienced young Israeli reservists, three tanks, and seven artillery batteries.
In the north, the Israelis had 170 tanks and 60 artillery pieces. Facing the Syrians for three consecutive days before reinforcements and reserves were moved into position were 36 tanks of the Israeli 74 tank battalion.
Though the war ended 19 days later with an arguably Israeli victory, the country experienced four times the human life losses of the Six-Day War – the equivalent of more than three times the U.S. losses in Vietnam. Israel was at the time a three million-strong nation, which had lost 2,500 soldiers and sustained 7,500 injuries.
In the immediate aftermath of the cease-fire, the press and members of all political parties demanded to know who was responsible for the terrible blunder of the army being taken by surprise and unprepared for war.
Consequently, on November 18, the government appointed an independent commission of inquiry chaired by Dr. Shimon Agranat- the American-born president of Israel’s supreme court- to investigate what had happened.
The commission’s report blamed several senior military and intelligence officers. However, it avoided blaming the civilian leadership.
The nation, nonetheless, believed that Prime Minister Golda Meir and her defense minister, Moshe Dayan, should be held fully responsible.
Golda Meir resigned on April 11, 1974, mandating the resignation of her whole government (She died in 1978).
In “Golda,” the recently released movie directed by Israeli film director Guy Nattiv, Israel’s sole female prime minister is quoted as saying, “All political careers fail.”
Judging any politician that would have been in Golda Meir’s position is complicated. Few political leaders have ever faced the challenge of waging a full-scale war on many fronts while also attempting to appease their friend, the United States, and undertaking peace negotiations with the Arab nations, supported by the Soviet Union.
The film’s screenwriter, Nicholas Martin, notes that he was only focused on the struggle that lasted from October 1, 1973, to October 20, hinting that the work is not a criticism of Golda Meir from a political standpoint. The British dramatist hoped the movie would cause audiences to “reassess Golda and see more of the complexity” of what transpired during the Yom Kippur War.
Martin and Nattiv present a particular character study that follows Golda Meir from the unexpected attack by Egypt and Syria on October 6, 1973, to the end of the war, primarily based on the findings of the 1974 Agranat Commission and the first-person accounts of several people who were close to Meir during the tense weeks of the war.
Helen Mirren is in charge of portraying Golda’s emotions as she learns of the growing number of Israeli casualties as the conflict progresses. The British actress, who won the 2007 Oscar for Best Actress portraying Queen Elizabeth II, convincingly depicts a tormented but steadfast Prime Minister. She succeeds in touching the audience’s emotions and eliciting empathy for one of the period-defining exponents of the Jewish people.
This is not a small accomplishment for Mirren, who, not being Jewish, could easily fool anybody, ignoring that “little” detail.
Initially, Ted Hope, who worked on the movie project for Amazon Original Movies, had told screenwriter Martin, in words that were perhaps too good to be true: “Don’t worry about the money; we’ve got lots.”
But Hope left Amazon in 2018, and Martin was forced to reduce his scrip edit from $80 million to $13. “Basically, I had to find a way of telling the story without leaving a primary school in north London, where we finally shot it in late 2021,” he said.
Almost all the scenes occur in dark interiors – either in the war room, government offices, Golda’s apartment, or the chilly, melancholic hospital where she secretly undergoes cancer treatments. All this contributes to a somber, solemn atmosphere that accords with the director’s intention. Nativ confessed that he saw Golda Meir as the war’s scapegoat, and if he could, he would have titled the film ‘Requiem for Golda.’
This film is a “must-see” for Jews who experienced the period when the Jewish people and the State of Israel were perpetually defying what at the time seemed to be impossible odds. “Golda,” together with movies such as Leon Uris’ “Exodus,” form part of the cinematography that helped create the images of an Israeli founding generation now long gone.
For those wanting to try to feel what happened in the Israeli psyche at the time, the 2020 Israeli-HBO TV series “Valley of Tears” tells the story of the Yom Kippur War from the perspective of the embattled Israeli soldiers on the Syrian front lines, another should see.