Film Reviews PARADISE NOW

PARADISE NOW

PARADISE NOW

Director: Hany Abu-Assad.

 

The Palestinian film, Paradise Now, shown on television on Friday, 30 April 2010, depicts two days in the lives of Said and Khaled, two young men from Nablus on the West Bank. Said and Khaled are best friends who have let it be known that they are ready for martyrdom.

 

Said is a quiet, introspective young man. He has everything to live for. He is a good motor mechanic with a steady job, has a loving family and has met a young woman, Sahu, in whom he is interested. Khaled is a lively, impulsive, impatient young man, also a motor mechanic working at the same place as Said. The film opens on a scene where a customer, arguing with Said about the front bumper of his car, claims it has not been properly installed. Said speaks calmly to the customer trying to pacify him but Khaled loses his temper and smashes the bumper off the car. As a result he is fired. These two very different young men are best friends and it is through their differences that attitudes to oppression are revealed.

 

An underground resistance group informs the two young men that they are to be sent to Tel Aviv to blow up as many soldiers as possible. Said and Khaled prepare calmly for their mission. A video is made in which they declare their intent to strike a blow against the oppression of Palestinians. These videos will eventually be sold in the shops of Nablus; an element of exploitation that casts doubt on the nobility of the cause, an element that could weaken commitment to the mission.

 

Said and Khaled are prepared for the mission: their appearances are transformed to make them look like settlers, they are fitted with bombs and then transported to the border. Khaled and Said are calm and ready but once they climb through the border fence, an Israeli patrol vehicle suddenly appears and both men run, Khaled goes back through the fence but Said goes off in a different direction. Khaled returns to the resistance group and then begins his search for Said. In the meantime Said returns to Nablus and begins to search for Khaled. Eventually he goes to his father’s grave where he tries to blow himself up. Khaled finds him in time and they go back to the resistance hideout.

 

The resisters then dismiss Said and tell him he can go home but they want Khaled to go back to Tel Aviv. And it is here that the difference between the two young men is made apparent. The first aborted attempt has unnerved Khaled and his encounter with Sahu makes him question the necessity for suicide bombings. It is not that he believes that there are other strategies, but the façade of courage that he put up for the initial attempt has crumbled. So when he is asked to go on with the mission, he cannot answer for himself. He is dependent on how Said will react and perhaps he believes that Said, whose manner has made him seem timid, will refuse to go back across the border.

 

Said, however, has not wavered and in fact has become even more resolute. The aborted first attempt had filled him with such despair that he had tried to blow himself up. He felt that in failing to complete the mission, he had become a collaborator like his father. Now when he is told to go home, he expresses clearly his reasons for continuing with the mission. He has to atone for his father’s betrayal. He believes that being a country with no military power, Palestine is left with no alternative but to take whatever means necessary to end Israeli domination. He sees it as his duty to continue the resistance movement and in this way keep alive the hope of freedom for Palestine.

 

It is with shock that Khaled realises that Said has committed them to a second attempt. He goes along but once they are in Tel Aviv, he loses courage and insists that they go back. This is when Said sends him back and proceeds with the mission on his own.

 

Khaled had a romantic notion of suicide bombing; he believed he would achieve heroic status and go to Paradise. When he asks what will happen after the mission, he is told that two angels will pick them up. Such a response is clearly meant to appease and is transparent. Khaled had been under an illusion and faced with the reality he gives up.

 

Said, however, whose beliefs are based on the reality of oppression, on the humiliation of collusion, and the need for resistance, rides the army vehicle filled with Israeli soldiers into Tel Aviv, clearly committed and determined to strike a blow for freedom.

 

People in this situation are forced into inhumane choices; action means suicide and non-action means collusion at some level or the other.   The film is a subtle collage of fear and courage and expresses clearly the dilemma of people living under oppression.

 

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