In defence of the Eric Bana nutting scene in Munich

Tom Davidson
4 min readMay 18, 2021

Okay sure, I can accept that on the face of it, it is a bit ridiculous.

Eric Bana as climaxing Mossad agent Avner Kaufman

The emotional crescendo of Steven Spielberg’s 2005 sprawling drama Munich — a 164-minute epic on Israeli revenge for the 1972 Munich massacre — is our hero orgasming while suffering flashbacks to the terror attack he never witnessed.

There’s even a slow-mo sweaty, climaxing hair flip as the hostages are brutally murdered.

Describing the scene as above, or looking at it in a vacuum, it is plainly laughable.

And it — and Spielberg — has faced some ridicule for it. (It is worth noting than the director, king of PG-13, generally eschews sex scenes for sexually suggestive scenes, such as in The Color Purple).

Spielberg, of course, is no stranger to criticism over his long and successful career.

The 74-year-old has been pilloried for over-sentimentalising, relying too much on schmaltz and nostalgia and perhaps not enough on filmmaking (an embarrassing over-generalisation).

Avner is a righteous man, looking for home

With Munich, and with this scene, to look at it separately is to forget the previous two and a half hours.

Mossad agent Avner, played by Eric Bana, is the son of an Israeli hero and Spielberg establishes early on, for one thing, just how important sex is to him and his wife Daphna — and how important Daphna is to him.

Is it so ridiculous to suggest that despite not witnessing the attack, Avner is haunted both by it and by his mission of revenge?

Munich is Avner’s story: he is given the task of avenging the dead Israeli athletes. And to do so he must adopt the methods of the terrorists themselves (bombings are preferred to shootings because they create more terror/public interest).

He gradually loses faith in the whole operation and — ultimately — in Israel.

The real genius to Munich is that the key to the climactic sex scene (pardon the pun), and Avner’s struggles with his mission, is the idea of ‘home’.

Avner’s desire for home, Israel seeking to defend it’s ‘home’ and the Palestine quest for one.

Avner even says that his wife is his home, not Israel. That is despite being ‘Sabra’ (a Jew born in Israel).

Avner and Daphna just after their daughter’s birth

On his first flight to Europe to start Operation Wrath of God, leaving behind his heavily-pregnant wife, Avner thinks of the attack unfolding in the Olympic Village.

Louis speaking to Avner who is gazing wistfully at a show-home kitchen

Then, again, shortly after hearing his daughter’s voice for the very first time through the telephone, he is again terrorised by the memory of it. (His wife has been displaced to Brooklyn for her own safety).

Immediately following is the Conversation-esque scene where a paranoid Avner tears his hotel room apart looking for either bombs in the mattress, in the telephone or bugs in the furniture.

Finally he resigns to sleeping in the closet, something one of his associates even jokes about earlier in the film. Now it is his reality.

And, at the end, his mission over, he can’t even find solace having sex with his wife, having moved her to Brooklyn and rejecting entreaties to return to Israel.

He wants to be with his wife, both sexually and physically, but he can’t escape Munich and what the aftermath has wrought on him.

He has no home anymore and soon, Spielberg notes with the Twin Towers looming in the background on the closing credits, the USA will be under attack.

(NB: In the shooting script the scene is even more brutal with Avner aggressively having sex with a crying Daphna)

Also, guys, fucking Crash also beat this at the Oscars, not just Brokeback Mountain. Fucking hell.

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Tom Davidson

31-year-old journalist living in south westLondon trying my hand at some film writing as and when