Photographic Memories / Flowers and a Gun Barrel

Amos Gitai reflects on a defining moment in his life, when beauty and brutality collided.

I chose two photos, as is customary in cinema: a photo and its opposite, a shot and its opposite. The girl in the photos is Tzili from Kibbutz Ein Gev, who is giving me a flower in October 1969, at the end of the rescue mission by the Sayeret Egoz elite commando unit in the Golan Heights. This contrast between, on the one hand, war - crushed and ruined houses - and, on the other, flowers in various colors that are given to those who return from the battlefield, always makes a strong impression on me. The contrast between a brutal and cruel state of war and the aesthetics of the wildflower is very confusing.

When you repeat those contrasts again and again, you no longer know whether at a certain moment you should be in a combat situation or, alternatively, you should peel off this armor and be sensitive to other things. The back and forth movement between these contradictory feelings was an element that later appeared in my films.

Amos Gitai

It was like that during the Yom Kippur War too: Being shelled for a few seconds, and then boarding the rescue helicopter taking the wounded from the battlefield, and after a few moments in the air you land in a hospital where they offer you a cup of coffee, and then you return once again to the war situation. The image that is composed of the two contrasts illustrates this pendulum, the ceaseless movement between various situations, throughout the day. In the end, this pendulum is what made me a film director, although I studied architecture at the Technion − Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, and planned to follow in the footsteps of my father, Bauhaus architect Munio Gitai Weinraub.

But when I returned from those places, architecture seemed too formal, too stylized an exercise for me. I wanted to work in a medium that also addresses my feelings, my thoughts, the things that I believe in. And so cinema, which has a stylistic element but also enables you to express feelings and thoughts, became my medium.