Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Desperate Dignity

Thanks, I'm still alive. I cancelled my plans for Friday night and stayed in to catch up on 'me time', I needed it. I had a yummy dinner of apples, Manchego cheese and one too many glasses of Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel (which is quite tasty by the way) Then I watched ...

Paradise Now

The story line is seemingly somber - two young Palestinian men are recruited into a suicide mission against Tel Aviv. Under no circumstance should you let this stop you from seeing the movie, it is thought-provoking, masterfully produced, directed, framed and acted without a hint of violence.

I postponed seeing this film on purpose. I am an American with Palestinian friends and Israeli family. I don't think I could have picked a more difficult film to watch. While I have definite opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, these are opinions I will forever keep to myself.

Difusing The Myth
I heard and read comments about Paradise Now attempting to justify terrorist techniques. This is not the case. In fact, if anything, this film sends a very strong anti-terrorist message. While the film is obviously pro-Palestinian, its also quite obviously against the suicide-bombing technique and paints a vivid, scorching portrait of its uselessness and of the pain it causes for those left behind. I believe what it attempts to illuminate is the desperation of the Palestinian people. As we all know, when people feel their choices and freedoms are removed, they will resort to irrational tactics. That's life.

The Acting
Said (played by Kais Nashef, left) and Khaled (played by Ali Suliman, right) are simply award-winning as the two friends that sign up for the mission. They are men of few words but of strong expression just the same. In almost minimalist fashion they convey situational tone and emotion with their eyes and simple but powerful gestures.

Also brilliant was Hiam Abbass, as Said's mother, who, without saying a word, painfully accepts her son's decision. Even though he has, as custom dictates, not told her a word, a mother knows.

The Psychology
Forceful, disturbing and very moving throughout the story. The benign acceptance of the two to their mission when recruited, the silent acceptance of the Said's mother to her son's decision, the strain of the friendship as one has reservations, the strength of the friendship as one protects the other. Suah, the pivotal character, moderate voice of reason and love interest of Said pulls the characters into a humanistic evaluation of their actions and brings a higher-level perspective to a bleak situation and a desperate search for dignity and redemption.

The Cinematography
Let's face it, you are probably not going to the West Bank anytime soon. This is a good way to see the area without the risk. I totally enjoyed the contrast between the shiny, modern, seaside Tel Aviv, which frankly was made to look like South Beach, against the faded-rose, disheveled West Bank. You could see the beauty of both, particularly the rough and gritty West Bank. Who ever was controlling the camera knew exactly how to sweep and paint to convery the contrast to an unfamiliar audience.

The Conclusion

*** spoilers ***

In the final scene, Said tricks Khaled into getting into a car and heading back to the West bank without completing the mission. Said then appears on Tel Aviv bus, crowded with Israeli police and citizens. The camera slow-zooms on his dark, expressionless eyes. Slowly, then the movie ends.

So, was Said's Paradise blowing himself up along with 30 or 40 Israelis? Or was his motivation to send Khaled back to Palestine to protect him from being perceived as an Israeli collaborator, since Said's had all along known that his Paradise was escaping the West Bank to a place where he had freedom and choices, a place like Tel Aviv?

Which would be your Paradise Now?


Blogger The Persian said...

You really have a way of reviewing anything, from dining to cinema! I hadn't heard of this film, but now am intrigued and want to see it.

Thanks for the heads up!

Have a great weekend :)

3:48 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Thanks Jim :) Hope you had a great weekend too!

7:29 AM


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