June Zero movie review & film summary (2024)
Movie Reviews

June Zero movie review & film summary (2024)

The opening story is about a young boy, an Israeli Jew, who goes to work in a factory, where he participates in the construction and cleaning of an oven for cremation. Eichmann is the one who’ll be put in it. The cremation of Eichmann is a topic of heated debate within the film. There are lines that suggest that some Israelis would gladly burn him alive if given the chance, as Old Testament retribution for what happened at places like Auschwitz. Cremation advocates also warn that having an Eichmann gravesite in Israel would encourage the wrong sorts of tourism. There are also Israelis who are uncomfortable with the eye-for-a-eye implications of incinerating a Nazi’s corpse, as well as with flouting the Talmud’s instruction that bodies be buried.  

The most thoughtful and emotionally involving parts of “June Zero” focus on a prison guard named Haim (Yoav Levi), a Moroccan Jew who’s put in charge of guarding Eichmann. As explained in the movie, Israeli authorities decided that European Jews would not be allowed near Eichmann for fear they might decide to short-circuit the legal process; only Mizrahi Jews, i.e., Jews from the predominantly Muslim world, were allowed. Haim is living on a tightrope. The local press (including a reporter who seems to be a friend) craves insider reports on what’s happening in Eichmann’s cell block. A minor car crash injures Haim–not badly enough to prevent him from carrying out his duties, but just enough that he can’t completely trust the evidence of his senses, so you wonder if he’s right to be paranoid that the barber assigned to cut Eichmann’s hair will try to kill him with the scissors. 

Another episode focuses on Micha (Thom Hagy), an investigator for the prosecution in Eichmann’s trial. Although he’s featured in an episode in the middle section, the movie follows him later for his own episode set in Poland, where he’s lecturing on the necessity of the existence of Israel, tying it mainly to the Holocaust.  A representative of the Israeli commission (Joy Rieger) who hosts him also takes issue with his focus. This leads to a long discussion in a restaurant/bar that touches on still-sensitive topics, including the question of whether tying Jewish identity so specifically to the Holocaust is reductive and damaging in the long term (“Must never forget become only remember?”). Because there’s such strong chemistry between the two actors (and their characters), the episode seems as if it’s going to turn into a darker and more politically incendiary cousin of the “Before” films with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. It wisely it ends on a note that makes them seem more like representatives of certain worldviews, locked in an ideological dance.

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