Movie Review: Bombers' tale revealed in Paradise Now
The two young men have been selected to carry out together the first suicide-bombing mission in two years. Each one has asked that he be allowed to die alongside his best friend. After being informed of their impending action, Khaled and Saïd cannot tell anyone what they will be doing the next day, including Saïd's new love-interest, Suha (Lubna Azabal).
The plan is very carefully laid out, and every last detail is mapped, until the actual action occurs. The two are separated as they try to get past one of the many obstacles on the way to Tel Aviv, and when they are apart, their motives and the impending results are suddenly called into question.
This movie puts a face on suicide bombers and their lives without trying to make judgments one way or the other. Each side seems fairly well represented, as do all the normal parts of life that happen in between, however surreal their lives may seem.
People walking down the street near a blockade hear an explosion and duck momentarily, only to carry on a second later as if nothing had happened. Saïd is given his choice of posters made to advertise the identities of the suicide-bombers, and tapes of their goodbyes are for sale in the local shops.
A stare-down between Khaled and Saïd's little brother ensues when the 11-year-old brings tea for the two friends and is not adequately compensated. At times like this, the use of English subtitles in this Arabic film is forgotten and unnecessary, as often the most meaningful things we want to see are the simplest and require no words.
Music is used sparingly throughout the film. The most memorable indulgence is the montage demonstrating the preparations of the bomb-vests and martyrs' cleansing rituals prior to the enactment of the plan.
While suicide bombing is a very vulnerable and perilous subject to discuss among friends or to portray in a film. I expected that a movie tackling such a heavy subject would be depressing. However, there were many moments in the film that could let you laugh.
Saïd and Khaled, who both work in a garage, react to a customer's accusations that they are cheating him. He claims his bumper appears crooked, and to appease him, one of the helpful mechanics takes a sledgehammer and knocks out the bumper completely: the customer is clearly right. So the film provides moments of humour and enjoyment of the way people's lives go on despite all of the hardship and violence.
Paradise Now is not a comedy, but as my high school drama teacher was known to say, “Every great tragedy has at least one scene that will make you laugh, and every great comedy needs a scene that will make you cry.”
Paradise Now doesn't stereotype suicide bombers, but instead reveals that they are people with ordinary lives by giving us a glimpse of a world we can scarcely believe.