There was a time when Bernard-Henri Lévy raised eyebrows as an “écrivain engagé,” a writer of ardent and openly partisan dispatches from conflict zones—in his case, with references to Byron and Leonidas of Sparta. Now, while Elon Musk toys with defunding his company’s Starlink internet service that has been so critical to Ukraine (it’s back on—for now) and cajoles Vladimir Putin with peace plans Ukraine views as defeatist, it is reassuring to see that the dashing French intellectual has not tempered his passion for the underdog.
Lévy, 73, has traveled to Ukraine five times since the Russian invasion last February, most recently in May, and his latest film, Why Ukraine, is a spirited look at the grit and determination of Ukrainian civilians, soldiers, and leaders, notably President Volodymyr Zelensky. Lévy and his crew tour burial sites, burned villages, bombed basements, training camps, and frontline trenches to pay tribute to the Ukrainian resistance.
Like the old-fashioned narrators of World War II newsreels, Lévy isn’t afraid to talk bracingly of “courage” and “honor” and the West’s moral duty to help Ukraine repel the invaders. As he puts it, “Their war is our war, their defeat would be our defeat.”