Munich (film)

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German title Munich
Original title Munich
Country of production USA , Canada , France
original language English
Publishing year 2005
length 157 minutes
Age rating FSK 16
JMK 14
Director Steven Spielberg
script Tony Kushner ,
Eric Roth ,
Charles Randolph
production Kathleen Kennedy ,
Berry Mendel ,
Steven Spielberg,
Colin Wilson
music John Williams
camera Janusz Kamiński
cut Michael Kahn

München (OT: Munich) is a US-Canadian-French feature film directed by Steven Spielberg from 2005.

Munich is based on the true story of the Israeli response to the Munich Olympic assassination (1972), in which a command of the Black September killed eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team. The main focus is on the activities of a Mossad unit that kills those directly and indirectly responsible for the attack on behalf of the Israeli government. The film mixes facts with inventions, allows historical people to interact with fictional characters. Spielberg himself described the film as "fictional" and invoked his "artistic freedom" to tell stories.

The Prime Minister Golda Meir and the head of the secret service Tzwi Zamir are historical persons, the portrayal of the attacks in Paris , Nicosia and Beirut largely corresponds to the actual process. The Mossad unit shown does not correspond in any way to the actual Mossad unit " Caesarea " , formed in 1972 and operating on a similar mission . The chronology and scope of the actions are also fictional.


During the 1972 Summer Games in Munich, the Palestinian terrorist group Black September raided the Olympic Village and killed eleven Israeli athletes . The Israeli government then calls for retaliation and has a death list drawn up with the names of eleven people responsible.

The young Mossad agent Avner Kaufman, son of an Israeli hero, is personally chosen by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir to head the team to kill the Palestinians because she still knows him as one of her former bodyguards. From the outset it is stipulated that the operations should only be carried out in Europe, but not beyond the Iron Curtain in order to avoid political complications, and not even in Arab states - this is reserved for the Israeli army. Avner accepts the offer, although his young wife Daphna is heavily pregnant and he has to leave her alone in Israel.

He learns the names of those involved in the assassination from his superior Ephraim. On his own and on his team, with no direct connection to Israel and only financially secure through Swiss bank accounts, he is supposed to carry out the killings. He has four men at his disposal who have just as little experience with this job as he does: the hot spur Steve, their driver, a determined Jewish patriot who “has been working for the Mossad for 10 minutes”, the toy and bomb maker Robert from Belgium , the reticent Carl, who had lost his son a few years earlier in the fight for Israel, and Hans, a matter-of-fact antiques dealer and forger, who was a sleeper in the Mossad in Frankfurt . They get to know each other over a relaxed working lunch - this is the first time that Avner is demonstrating the culinary skills he has learned in the kibbutz .

Through his childhood friends in Frankfurt , who are close to the Baader-Meinhof group and see themselves as soldiers in the war, they get to the informant Louis, who supplies the whereabouts of those wanted for six-figure dollars and can also provide weapons and organizational help. Avner and Louis usually meet in the window of a kitchen shop in Paris.

Their first target person, Abdel Wael Zwaiter , the translator of the Arabic fairy tale book A Thousand and One Nights , provides the group in Rome. It's unguarded, making it an easy target. Robert and Avner lie in wait for him in a hallway and shoot him after a moment's hesitation.

The assassination attempt on PLO representative Hamshari, who is about to be blown up by a bomb hidden in a phone, is called off to avoid killing his daughter. The conscientiousness with which the group is careful to spare the innocent marks the early stage of the mission. Only when Hamshari is alone do the agents repeat the attack. Hamshari survived the explosion, however, seriously injured, which is why Robert is now accused by the others of not having used enough explosives. However, he defends the allegations with the argument that he did not want to blow up the entire floor. A few days later, Hamshari succumbs to his injuries in the hospital.

In Cyprus, the next scene, an explosive device is placed under the victim's mattress in the hotel room. Avner rents in the next room to give the signal to ignite as soon as the victim is in bed. The following explosion destroyed almost the entire floor of the hotel. Like other hotel guests, Avner almost dies himself. Louis has delivered the wrong explosives, assures Robert, when asked about the excessive explosion, and alleges Louis even deliberate sabotage. But the group cannot do without Louis and his information.

The next mission in Beirut ( Operation Spring of Youth ) requires military support; Although the group is successful, there is a mass shooting - exactly the opposite of a covert, "surgical" secret service operation , which promptly does not go unnoticed Films shows the KGB and the CIA begin to interfere in the conflict.

Avner meets Louis' father, an obscure French informant who trades information and weapons with his son as a family business. Gradually there are growing doubts as to whether the people on their death list are actually involved in the attack. The role of various secret services is also unclear. Louis' father, papa , invites Avner to a family dinner, but seems to be playing a mysterious game in the jungle of the intelligence services devoid of all morals and knowing no loyalties.

In Cyprus, an organizational error is almost fatal for the agents: in preparation for their fifth assignment, they go into hiding in an apartment in Athens that Louis had found for them. No sooner have they gone to their camps for the first night than a group of PLO fighters enter the room that was assigned to them. Both parties face each other with pistols drawn; the Mossad group has the presence of mind as members of the ANC , the ETA and the RAF , which leads to a ceasefire, if not fraternization. (Embedded in this episode is a conversation between Avner and the Palestinian Ali about the prospect of the struggle for Palestine ; although the dialogue tries to contrast little more than the typical positions of both sides, it fueled film critics from several political camps.)

When the explosive device fails to detonate again in the fifth attack, doubts arise about Robert, the group's bomb maker, and the question is raised of whether it was sabotage or inability. Hans spontaneously kills the target with a hand grenade. In the subsequent gun battle, Ali is shot by Carl. Robert admits on the occasion of the allegations of his comrades that he was actually a trained bomb defuser .

At his request, Avner's wife takes the child to Brooklyn , where he thinks she is safer. The killings continue, but gradually the group creeps into the suspicion that they are themselves in the crosshairs. Your assassination attempt on the alleged head of the Munich assassination attempt, Salameh , is foiled by supposedly drunk Americans who are believed to be CIA agents. In a hotel bar, Avner, sitting alone in front of a drink, soon becomes aware of an attractive woman named Jeanette. He speaks to her and she very quickly expresses the wish to go to her room with him. Avner refuses, however. He briefly sees Carl in the bar. Then he returns to his room and speaks to his wife on the phone. Later he goes back to the lobby, but "Jeanette" has disappeared. He smells the scent of her perfume near Carl's room and opens the door with a bad suspicion. Avner finds Carl naked and murdered in bed and now has to admit that he and his people should actually be killed, even if he is not clear who the client is.

From Louis Avner learns the true identity of "Jeanette", who turns out to be a Dutch hit man. At the same time, Dad shows him a photo that proves that he is already being observed himself. They decide to avenge Carl, but without Robert, who is at the end of his nerves and is therefore on leave, and they look for Jeanette on her houseboat. She approaches them unsuspectingly, only dressed in a dressing gown. The three kill her. At dinner with Steve and Avner, Hans gets drunk and expresses doubts about the meaning of their actions. At dawn the other two find him stabbed to death on a bench.

Soon afterwards, bomb maker Robert, plagued by self-doubt, dies in a mysterious explosion. Avner, who now spends his nights in fear in the closet instead of in bed - as an experienced agent had prophesied to him in an earlier phase of the mission - doubts more and more that the target persons are really only the masterminds of the Munich Assassination act. His next mission failed, only a very young guard is killed. Avner cancels the operation and moves to New York. He categorically refuses to give the Mossad and the government his source (Louis).

Avner tries to find a normal family life with his wife, but he feels more and more that he himself has become the target of a murder assignment. He becomes increasingly paranoid and he thinks he is being followed while taking his child for a walk. Avner calls Papa from a public payphone ; In the conversation, he asserts that Avner does not threaten any harm from his side.

Avner storms into the Israeli embassy and threatens to expose his family if the threat continues, and demands to speak to Ephraim. Avner is deeply traumatized; in bed with his wife, scenes of the events at Fürstenfeldbruck airport appear in his mind's eye.

On the banks of the East River , he finally meets with Ephraim, who demands blind obedience and rejects any doubts about the legitimacy of the order and the measures used. However, he admits that other teams have also been sent out with assignments. Avner's request to have dinner with him and his family in accordance with Jewish hospitality is refused by Ephraim, and they both go their separate ways.

The credits mention that nine of the eleven death row inmates were eliminated and Salameh was also killed in 1979.


The German premiere was on January 26, 2006 in Munich . Within a short time, the film reached an audience of 850,000.

Munich was shot by Janusz Kamiński with Arri cameras. The Super 35 wide screen process was used, which does not require anamorphic lenses and only exposes part of the 35 millimeter image (see the similar Techniscope ). Only in the laboratory is the material artificially distorted so that it can be projected in the cinema with conventional anamorphic lenses. The advantages and disadvantages of this process are easy to study in Munich : excellent color rendering and no optical distortion, but a comparatively coarse-grained image.

Many scenes of the film were shot in the Hungarian capital Budapest . The scenes that take place in Cyprus, Greece and Rome were created in Malta .


The film music was written by the American composer John Williams , the regular composer of Steven Spielberg. The soundtrack consists of three main ideas: Avner's theme , which describes the feelings of the Israelis (especially Avner's), a sad solo chant that describes the agony of the murdered, and dull electronic sounds that express the excitement (the heartbeats, so to speak) of the Israelis . In addition, there is the skillful processing of the topics, which are strongly expressed in the film. Overall, however, music rarely occurs in Munich because Spielberg and Williams were of the opinion that music is not appropriate for films about historical events that are structured in a documentary manner. This is why the director and composer used little music in both Schindler's List and Munich .

In 2005 the film music was nominated for an Oscar .


“What the debate about 'Munich' shows: In the culture war between liberals and conservatives, films are primarily checked for their ideological commitment. [...] 'The only side Spielberg ever suggests is on the side of the films,' writes Wieseltier in ' The New Republic '. One can read that as a reproach. But you don't have to. "

- Adriano Sack : The world

“First of all: Munich is brilliantly made, composed and staged. [...] Ultimately, Munich remains an exciting political thriller. However, a political thriller with an ethical message. "

“Spielberg makes extensive use of the stylistic diversity of the thriller genre - the scene in which a little girl threatens to fall victim to the bombs offers the purest Hitchcock suspense - but the message and attitude of the film go far beyond the boundaries of thriller. 'Munich' is an agonizing, controversial drama about the question of whether a democratic system may override existing rights if it believes its external and internal existence is threatened. It is not for nothing that the - still standing - twin towers in the final image remind of this other 'war on terror'. Conclusion: Spielberg's most mature film since "Saving Private Ryan " combines thriller tension with explosive political references, some of which are highly topical "

In addition to many journalists and film critics, who judged the film very differently, organizations such as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America or the Anti-Defamation League also spoke up . Where this did not happen - as in the case of the AIPAC - this was again criticized.


Various critics have noted that the fictionality of the plot is not made clear enough. This is all the more problematic as the film feigns historicity through the inclusion of original news broadcasts and thus influences and manipulates popular historiography . In an article in Der Spiegel magazine , Spielberg invokes his right to tell stories. “Munich” is based on facts, but in the end it is a fictional work: in the opening credits of the film it is said that it was “inspired by real events” (German insertion of the DVD: “based on a true story”).

Above all, the template for the film, which is largely based on the book Vengeance , is criticized . The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team (published 1984, German edition: Die Rache ist Unser ) by the Canadian journalist George Jonas is based. This work was successfully filmed for television in 1986 under the title Law of Terror . It arose from conversations between Jonas and Juwal Aviw, who claimed to have been a Mossad agent. As early as the late 1980s, however, court records from the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court proved that Aviw was not a member of the Mossad or any other secret service (Heaps v. Simon & Schuster, Co. 152 AD2d 468, 540 NYS2d 437 NYAD 1 Dept., 1989. May 02, 1989). As Yossi Melman of the Israeli daily Haaretz wrote in the FAZ , the former head of the Mossad, Tzwi Zamir , also rejects Aviw's claim.

Yossi Melman also says that sources that are now accessible have not been taken into account and that contemporary witnesses such as the former head of the Mossad Tzwi Zamir or Michael Harari , head of the responsible department of the Mossad, were not questioned about the events. The same goes for one of the terrorists, Abu Daoud , who is hiding in Damascus. Also Awi poet , former head of Israel's domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet , described the presentation of the agents work as very unrealistic.

However, these statements contradicted the Spiegel TV report from February 4, 2005, in which three former Mossad agents (including Aaron Stein and Amnon Biran ) as well as the mastermind behind the Munich attack, Abu Daoud, and the daughter of a relative spoke. The agents largely confirmed Spielberg's account of the attacks in Paris, Nicosia and Beirut.

Some relatives of the victims also found it an affront that they were not asked for their opinion by Spielberg. However, Guri Weinberg plays his father Mosche (the first victim to be killed in the attack), and some of the wives and children of the terrorist victims gave positive statements in reports by ZDF, ORF and Spiegel-TV.

Spielberg made another mistake, presumably unintentionally, in the depiction of the failed liberation operation by the Munich police. Because while the security forces in the film have HK G3 A3ZF precision rifles with a mounted telescopic sight, in reality these were simple assault rifles with a rear sight and front sight , which, according to experts, were completely inadequate for the distance and light conditions there. In the film scene, the terrorists die from targeted shots in the head and chest, which further suggests that the police officers were trained snipers , although this also does not correspond to the facts. In fact, they were simple police officers who had not received any military training. The first shot fired did not, as planned, lead to the terrorist leader "Issa" being unable to fight, but to a through-thigh shot by his companion "Tony", who was then able to intervene in the fighting. (See the hostage-taking of Munich section: The failed hostage rescue).


Various critics have criticized the film as being tendentially anti-Israeli . In it there are only brutal Israelis with remorse and brutal Israelis without remorse. The Israeli side is presented very one-dimensional. While one learns the personal story of the Palestinian terrorists, who are portrayed as poets and loyal fathers, the story of the athletes of Munich is not told. The assassins are portrayed as having no history, as driven by their blind nationalism . Ehud Danoch, Israeli consul in Los Angeles, criticized the fact that the terrorist Ali’s monologue, which lasted several minutes, gave the Palestinian side the opportunity to present their point of view without such a scene for the Israeli point of view. Proponents of the film believe that the Israeli point of view is represented by a monologue by Avner's mother. Her statement was criticized, however, because on the one hand it does not even affect her son as the main actor, and on the other hand it only supports the Palestinian view of history. Not only the Palestinian terrorist, but Avner's mother also said that the Jews had stolen their land from the Palestinians. She is portrayed as a radical nationalist who says: “We needed a refuge. We took them. Whatever it costs. ”The statement“ Whatever it costs ”implies that Israel really shied away from any human sacrifice.

Some critics, such as Leon Wieseltier , the literary critic of The New Republic, said that Zionism was only anti-anti-Semitism in the film, that Israel would be degraded to nothing more than an answer to the National Socialist genocide of the Jews, with which the historical connection of the Jews are excluded from their homeland and the history of Zionism since the 19th century. The American publicist and psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer said in Die Welt that this was exactly the narrative that radical anti-Zionists , like the Iranian President , would propagate:

"If Israel is nothing more than Europe's Holocaust guilt trip, why should the Muslims endure a Jewish state in their midst?"

Some critics see evidence of the film's anti-Israel orientation in co-screenwriter Tony Kushner, who is a proven anti-Zionist for calling the founding of Israel a mistake. According to critics such as Krauthammer, the anti-Zionist orientation of the film is also evident in the fact that Avner and his family ultimately leave Israel and move to the USA, “to the only place”, as Krauthammer ironically remarks, “where real Jews with decency and Finding a home with sensitivity ”.

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) called for a boycott of the film on December 27, 2005, calling Tony Kushner an "Israel hater".

Moral equivalence

Other critics, on the other hand, do not think that the film is one-sided, but that its fault lies precisely in its meticulous balance . Ali will be given the opportunity to represent the Palestinian side, and then Avner's mother to defend the Israeli side. This continues in boring, neverending scenes. In an attempt to be neutral, the film is equalizing. The film does not differentiate between terrorism and the fight against terrorism. The unintentional killing of innocents by the Israeli side would be put on a par with the deliberate killing of the terrorists. Such a reading is supported by the statement of one of the Israeli agents, who says: "If we learn how to act like them, we will defeat them!" Jeffrey Gedmin meant in der Welt what the Spiegel sees as profound about the film, namely that he shows that terrorists “are only human” is what he considers stupid, because the statement as a simple truism does not bring any knowledge.

Spielberg, some critics such as David Brooks of The New York Times , spread the simplistic thesis that violence causes counter-violence without taking into account that a state has to protect its citizens (see reason of state ), and Maxeiner and Miersch quote Daniel Pearl in Die Welt with the statement that it is a civilizational necessity to punish perpetrators . The persecution of the people behind the massacre in Munich is legitimate, morally guided and at the same time necessary to prevent criminals from getting away and to deter potential criminals. This is not taken into account in the film.

Another point of criticism in relation to the thesis of “ violence produces counterviolence” is the final shot of the film, which shows the still standing towers of the World Trade Center, suggesting that the Israeli attacks were responsible for the terrorist attack on the West and the USA (Richard Just: Two problems with Munich , The New Republic December 24, 2005). It is naive and demonstrably wrong to believe that, as Spielberg claims, terrorism is based on actually experienced injustice and not on a misguided ideology. Proponents of the film counter this, however, by stating that assassinations, whatever their background, are nothing more than murders carried out by the Israeli killer squad and that they are portrayed as such.


But the film is also exposed to the opposite criticism. Uri Avnery accuses Spielberg of only portraying the Israelis as (good) people with remorse , while the Arabs are incapable of remorse. The justification monologue of the Arab is only an alibi to pretend something like neutrality.


It is also criticized that Spielberg does not mention the murder of an innocent Arab in the so-called Lillehammer affair .

Spielberg's reaction to the criticism

In Newsweek , Spielberg said, "So many in my own community, the Jewish community, are very angry that I allowed the Palestinians to have a dialogue and that I allowed Tony Kushner to be the author of that dialogue."

Munich does not take a position, but just ask a lot of questions. The film purposely does not take a definitive position on targeted killings. He was even of the opinion that it was legitimate to answer the terror of Munich, which is why he showed flashbacks of the massacre through the film. Above all, he wanted to initiate an intellectual discussion and it was clear to him that he would lose friends with the film; he had discussed his decision with his family and his rabbi. In his opinion, terrorism demands a harsh answer, but attention must also be paid to the causes. The film is a prayer for peace, more needs to be said than constantly rewarding one another.

In an interview with Roger Ebert he said that he firmly believes that we can still experience peace between the two peoples. "The greatest enemy is not the Palestinians or the Israelis," Spielberg told Time magazine , "the greatest enemy is intransigence."

Awards (selection)

Oscars 2006

Golden Globe Awards 2006

Directors Guild of America Awards 2006

  • Nominated for Best Director for Steven Spielberg

Grammy Awards 2007

  • Award in the category Best Instrumental Composition (A Prayer For Peace) for John Williams
  • Nomination in the category of best composed soundtrack album for film, television or visual media for John Williams

The German Film and Media Assessment FBW in Wiesbaden awarded the film the rating particularly valuable.

Web links


Articles and press reviews

Reviews and movie reviews

Individual evidence

  1. Release certificate for Munich . Voluntary self-regulation of the film industry , June 2006 (PDF; test number: 104 842 DVD).
  2. Age rating for Munich . Youth Media Commission .
  3. a b c d Leon Wieseltier: Hits. ( Memento of May 16, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) In: The New Republic .
  4. Adriano Sack: How Hollywood fails in Munich. In: The world . January 1, 2006, accessed February 12, 2009 .
  5. Theo Sommer : Blood for Blood. In: The time . January 19, 2006, accessed February 12, 2009 .
  6. Munich. In: Cinema . Retrieved July 22, 2009 .
  7. Debbie Schlüssel: AIPAC's Silence on “Munich” ( Memento from July 31, 2012 in the web archive ). In: . December 29, 2005.
  8. ^ Walter Reich: Something's Missing In Spielberg's 'Munich' . In: The Washington Post . January 1, 2006.
  9. a b Stephen Howe: 'Munich': Spielberg's failure In: OpenDemocracy . January 26, 2006.
  10. Yossi Melman, Steven Hartov: Spielberg's murky sources . In: . January 6, 2006.
  11. Theo Sommer: Blood for Blood. In: Die Zeit online, January 19, 2006.
  12. a b Jeffrey Gedmin: Ridiculous as a statement . In: Die Welt Online, February 1, 2006
  13. Ori Nir: The freedom to dissent ( Memento of March 29, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) . In: . April 7, 2006.
  15. ^ Stanley Kauffmann: Spielberg's List ( Memento from January 12, 2006 in the Internet Archive ). In: The New Republic
  16. Dirk Maxeiner, Michael Miersch: Understanding for everything and everyone. ( Memento from June 30, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) In: Die Welt.
  18. Sven Boedecker: Good murderers, bad murderers . In: Sunday newspaper .