Divine Intervention

"Excellent"

Divine Intervention Review


Welcome to Nazareth. A man dressed as Santa Claus is pursued up and down its hills by a swarm of angry children, bleeding profusely from a knife wound. Such is the opening of Elia Suleiman's bitterly dark Divine Intervention, a series of sketches (the director refers to them as "gags" or "burlesques") portraying Israeli-Palestinian tensions. It's worth noting that the director is Palestinian, Nazareth is his hometown, the neighbors are portrayed as morose at best (and teetering on the brink of violence at worst), and the filmmaker portrays his surrogate self within the film, a character named E.S. The E.S. of the film is a poker-faced, silent presence, kept tiny within the wide-angle compositions of Suleiman the director. As Brit pop icon Morrissey might say, "I'm just passing through here / On my way to somewhere civilized / Maybe someday, I'll finally arrive."

The non-narrative storytelling references back to E.S., tending to his ailing father (Nayef Fahoum Daher) and meeting a beautiful Palestinian freedom fighter (Manal Khader) for unspoken hand-holding, seen discreetly on the Jerusalem border under the watchful eye of soldiers. If E.S. is the observer (he's too inactive to truly function as a conscience), he's also maybe the dreamer. His fantasies serve as comical outbursts, seamlessly interwoven into his mundane life. The freedom fighter transforms at one point into a cloaked ninja, beating the hell out of Israeli soldiers to a kitschy pop jingle. One of E.S.'s apricots also functions as a hand grenade, blowing up an enemy tank. A colorful balloon emblazoned with the picture of Yasser Arafat flies over an Israeli checkpoint unhindered. Any dream will do.

Those dreams are given brutal counterpoint by scenes of the Nazareth community, not following any particular character but drifting through the city like a labyrinth. In an early scene, E.S.'s father drives through town cursing out his neighbors ("Fuck your mother's sister!"). The homeowners toss bags of garbage into neighbors' yards, a Jew and Palestinian stare each other down at the head of a traffic jam, and streetwalkers wait pointlessly for buses that never arrive. All of this is handled in the deadpan style Western audiences might expect of Jim Jarmusch. Flat, carefully composed shots linger on for minutes on end, as the actors move through the frame like ants. Those with a penchant for Hal Hartley's slapstick choreography might get a kick out of Suleiman's staging, which gets off to a violent start with poor, brutalized Santa. While Suleiman's unwillingness to cut has a hypnotic power, it occasionally seems lethargic long after he's made his point. Brevity isn't part of the make-up of Divine Intervention, and the patient viewer will have to take the purposefully lugubrious (non-fantasy) scene pacing in stride.

If there isn't much of a plot, there's something in Suleiman's order that feels right. E.S. is seen in the film arranging scenes for a screenplay he'd like to write, all yellow Post-Its on a wall. It's a useful way of viewing Divine Intervention as well -- sketches that compliment one another and build from that violent opening to queasy tension, with fleeting glimpses of hope and lots of angry laughter along the way. Suleiman is critical of Nazareth, a ghetto where moral values have eroded to the point of near non-existence. Laughing at the callousness and cruelty of man, of one neighbor's inhumanity to the other, Suleiman uses his comedy as a way of digging under the skin. The film's subtitle is, after all, A Chronicle of Love and Pain.

Aka Yadon ilaheyya.



Divine Intervention

Facts and Figures

Run time: 92 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 2nd October 2002

Distributed by: Avatar Films Domestic Theatric

Production compaines: Bullz Eye Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Fresh: 55 Rotten: 13

IMDB: 6.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Rev. Robert Gibbs, as Divine Matthews, as Deacon Wells, Roz Ryan as Mother Candice, Carl Gilliard as Deacon Grier, as Sister Grier, Reynaldo Rey as Deacon Jones, as Rev. Matthews, Shang Forbes as Deacon Thomas

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.