By Andrea R. Solis
By Andrea R. Solis
Look into the eyes-the eyes of a suicide bomber.
They are disengaged, like the soul of the man behind them.
The eyes and the soul have already transcended what is terrestrial and thrown themselves at the promise of paradise, “Paradise Now.”
Warner Independent Films has offered a relevant and thought provoking piece of cinema concerning the ongoing, bloody Palestinian/Israeli conflict.
Director Hany Abu-Assad tells the story of two lifelong friends, Said (Kais Nashef) and Khaled (Ali Suliman) who embark on a mission of martyrdom.
Living in the Israeli occupied city of Nablus in the West Bank, the two disenfranchised young men agree to exact revenge for recent assassinations of their political leaders by going to Tel Aviv as suicide bombers.
Things go awry as soon as they cross the border causing the men to abort the mission and become separated.
The audience follows the frenzied actions of each of the men as they try to find one another before their organization deems them to be expendable collateral risks.
Clawing their way along the scarred backdrop of the war torn streets, the men struggle to reconcile their morality with their political ideology as well as their base desire for survival which they ashamedly deny.
The characters debate the plausibility of alternative forms of resistance, but they ultimately determine that under the occupation they are already dead. Palestine is inferior politically, economically, and militarily-leaving the men’s bodies their best, and only weapon.
The movie’s drama unfolds during a 48 hour period giving the audience little time to fully unravel the depth of the characters.
This parallels the shortened life spans and unfulfilled potential of the young men who give up their future in exchange for a part in the intifada.
“Paradise Now” is slow at times, but deliberate in its mundanity. Its labored progression underlies the futility of the never changing Middle East discord.
The audience is left with little resolution, as are the characters, and is compelled to follow the story to its end just as the characters are compelled to follow their mission and fate to their ends.
Despite personal politics, viewers will appreciate the social relevance of the film and its ability to explore the dynamics and pathology of those who kill in the name of religion and politics.
As odd as it sounds, the film actually succeeds in humanizing suicide bombers.
Grading on a curve for its smaller budget, “Paradise Now” falls short of entertaining an audience the way that Steven Spielberg’s suspenseful “Munich” did, which dealt with the same subject matter.
Despite its setbacks, overall the film finds a way to be effective in its simplicity.
It translates a very specific geopolitical conflict into universal themes which Western audiences can absorb.