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

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

War Dogs Movie Review

War Dogs Movie Review

Based on a rather astounding true story, this comedy-drama centres on two stoners who landed...

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

Advertisement
The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

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.