By Angelo Muredda
Israeli filmmaker Yaron Zilberman follows up A Late Quartet with Incitement, an unnerving recreation of the days leading up to Orthodox Jewish law student Yigal Amir’s assassination of then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for his integral role in the Oslo peace process. Offering another look into the social customs by which insular worlds operate, Zilberman transitions from the rarefied air of Manhattan string quartets to student radicalism in Tel Aviv, which he delves into with the same specificity. Though the present-day parallels sometimes feel a bit strained, Zilberman offers a perceptive and focused account of how nationalist sentiment takes root on college campuses, especially in angry male audiences primed to receive it on account of their personal baggage.
Lead Yehuda Nahari Halevi wisely resists the temptation to treat Amir as an archetypal bad seed, whose stringent ideology and commitment to political violence might have been offered up as an easy origin point for everything from incel terrorism to the current chaos in the Middle East. He plays him instead as a manipulative, self-fashioned creep, who we follow in uncomfortable proximity care of Dardenne-inspired follow shots. There is an admirable commitment on both actor and director’s part to focusing on Amir’s decisions to escalate and confirm rather than test his views, instead of treating him as simply a historical boogeyman who gradually merges into the archival media he is listening to and watching in the background throughout. Zilberman mostly resists the temptation to merely check off the similarities between this cultural moment and the one that produced the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. By attending instead to the willfulness of Amir’s repeated claim that he is like a laser pointer, marking targets, he’s crafted a more complex and necessary sort of character study.