Movie of the Day – Paradise Now
January 27, 2012 Leave a comment
So several months back I talked about a movie that touched upon the subject of jihads and suicide bombers. It was a darkly funny movie, one that in some ways aimed to humanize and also curiously tried to find a way to present such a touchy subject matter without upsetting a lot of people. Four Lions was one of the films that is vastly underrated and also unseen by a lot of people. I talked about the film in how it used the humor to lighten a serious subject matter, almost getting us to realize that we are laughing at the characters in a film that are trying to carry out a bombing. But with that humor, it also focused on the people in the story, people who are our neighbors, friends, even someone we know off-hand.
While Four Lions took the side approach to telling a story about jihadist and suicide bombers, as bumbling as they may be, a film that came out in 2005 that approached the touchy subject with an artful and often times, far too humanizing eye to the characters and story. Paradise Now is a Palestinian film about two men who are preparing to launch a suicide attack in Israel. It’s a polarizing look at the subject of suicide bombers, mainly because we often view the act as a black and white issue, but Paradise Now tells a personal tale of the individual that carries out the act of bombing. They no longer become just a bomber, but an identifiable person, one who we watch from inception into the cause and his eventual mission. It’s no longer just an act we read about, but one we watch and become personal with.
“Paradise Now” is the story of what may be the last 48 hours in the lives of two Palestinian men – friends since childhood – who have been recruited as suicide bombers. When they are intercepted at the Israeli border and separated from their handlers, a young woman who discovers their plan causes them to reconsider their actions. But with pressure mounting, time running out, and passions running high…there’s no way to know which way they will go. (source)
A film like this has to court some kind of political controversy or agenda in portraying the films story. Paradise Now certainly had it’s fair share of problems and detractors, which are numerous if you do a bit of searching online for the movie. While certainly the controversy is what pushed the film into the spotlight, the movie does kind of toe the line between being a political film and a personal film. The filmmakers turned the camera to a personal story, one that follows two friends and their indoctrination into a cause that has them becoming martyrs for a greater cause. While the story is rooted in realism, the film is really a strong thriller, one with many plot points and turns to keep us engaged in the story.
Paradise Now presents to two characters, friends since childhood, both being brought in to the turmoil of attacks on Tel Aviv. The movie focuses only on the final days leading up to their mission, which has them receiving their orders and carrying out the final moments of their lives with videos to their families and preparation to Allah to for safe passage. The suspense of their final moments is carefully crafted in everyday happenings. While the attack is scheduled for an upcoming date, they still have to act normally in public and avoid suspicion. Every moment they meet, where they go, and who they talk to has an air of suspicion and paranoia. It’s a dangerous task for them to get their objective, but it’s the personal struggles they take along the final journey that makes you feel sympathetic for them.
The main point of the film is to portray these suicide bombers we hear about in the news as actual people. One’s with lives, feelings, concerns and a sense of duty, even if it is a bit warped and molded to fit the cause they believe in. There are moments in the film where you seem the agony in their decision to ignite the bombs, either because of the people around them or for a personal reflection on their life and decision. It makes you question the act of terrorism, instead of presenting the black and white scenario of following orders because they must.
Why do they do it? What goes through their minds right before the split decision to detonate? The movie presents scenarios in which we can get a personal glimpse at what the two friends are thinking about. We watch them work out the facts in their heads and they become more than just a bomber. They have family, they have friends, the two of them grew up together and we watch them go through the process of giving their lives to something greater. In some ways they are impressionable, able to be molded and filled with propaganda and used as pawns to further a cause. To us that is what we might feel about them, but the story of the film has them become more than characters being used for a cause.
This is a powerful movie, one that definitely feels more personal than political. That is a big credit to the way the movie plays out the story of Paradise Now and the people that inhabit the film. It is rooted in history, one that is ongoing and real to the people of Israel and Palestine. I don’t want to get dragged into the politics surrounding the situation. That is not the aim of the movie. At its heart it is filmmaking and storytelling at it’s finest and certainly one of the more powerful films out there.