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“Paradise Now” the Film by Abu-Assad

The screenwriter of the Paradise Now and its director, Hany Abu-Assad, created the movie about two Palestinian men that wanted to detonate bombs at the military check point in Israel. Two suicide bombers were to sett of their bombs one after another, to injure as much people as it is possible. Still, during their trip Said and Khaleb faced necessity to doubt their aims. As a result, one of the friends rejected his aim, while another committed suicide and explored his bomb. The movie got several awards, including Golden Globe as the best foreign-language film, European film awards for best screenplay and many other rewards. Nevertheless, the script passed a great pass before it was finally completed. Hany Abu-Assad and his script co-author Bero Beyer firstly planned to make a story of a man who went to look for his suicide bomber friend; the final form of the script had been developing during long five years. In the script “Hany Abu-Assad raised important questions that connect gender, geography, politics, and culture in the West Bank” (Yaqub, 2010, p. 219). In other words, terroristic suicide of two childhood friends was not the main idea of the movie. It is also doubtful that the main subject of movie narration is clearly disclosed in its title.

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The general idea of the movie is not whether we would go to Paradise or Hell: “It does not necessary deal with the eternal life promised to the suicide bombers” (Gertz and Khleifi, 2008, p. 193). It is rather about the situation that we may face nowadays. That is why it is difficult to admit whether the Paradise Now was addressed against Palestinian or Israeli people. “The film is an artistic point of view of that political issue,” said the director. “The politicians want to see it as black and white, good and evil, and art wants to see it as a human thing” (Glaister, 2006). Still, the reaction of the audience was dubious. The majority of Israeli people were against the nomination of the movie for the Oscar. They argued that the Paradise Now had no cinematographic significance as it depicted anti-Israeli facts that solicited to terroristic acts. Still, representatives of other countries found in the Paradise Now different topics, including humanizing motifs: “it is easier to see a suicide bomber as a… soulless, robotic shell of a person programmed to wreak destruction – than it is to picture a flesh-and-blood human being doing the damage” (2005), wrote New York Times observer Stephen Holden.

Indeed, two friends are going to carry out a terrible barbarian and inhuman act but in the movie they are presented as almost ordinary people who have their own likes and dislikes, weaknesses and passions. They are not villains at all. However, the movie offers us an opportunity to think over the reasons of the war and confrontation: “the audience actively interrogates the group, seriously question their ideas and awareness of political reality” (Smith and Dean, 2007, p. 210). The movie is created in such a way that it is difficult to admit on whose side the film maker is. The significance of the movie lies in the fact that it suggests a food for thought. The film maker does not directly impose his view-point; still, his main mean to show the absurdity of war is the camera. An audience may judge the events as they see it through the camera eyes. And what the audience sees is the Hell, but not Paradise. At the same time, audience watches recent Now. Apocalypse is not so far as many of us, living in comfortable conditions, think. Moreover, one does not necessarily has to die in order to reach Hell gates.

During the movie the camera mostly accompanies to friends-Palestinians and turn by turn presents their common and separate stories (Bronstein, 2010). As an equivalent to a voice of an author in the literary narration a camera presents an eye of a watcher. Still, while an author of a book sometimes directly express his/her point of view, a video film leaves a lot for audience’s consideration, encouraging watchers to start their own dialogues with the picture presented on the screen (Giannetti, 2010, p. 27). Role of a camera work in any film is indeed substantial. Nevertheless, in Paradise Now it is rather a kind of a commentator, than an indifferent observer of the events presented in the film. It is clearly presented even in the final episode of the movie, where the first scene presents us Said who is in the bus with Israeli people. Camera zooms in on his face and eyes, and display flashes with white color. The results of Said’s trip are clear. Still, the final interpretation if left at audience choice. One can decide that explosion was a kind of Said’s victory; others may keep opposite point of view. Optimistic watchers may even decide that Said did not explode his bomb. Everything depends on audience point of view, still, general mood of the movie hints on the most probable variant of the final.

Speaking about adaptation motives of the film, we can mention parallels that one can find examining the titles of the films Paradise Now and Apocalypse Now. Paradise that is considered to wait for suicide bombers turns into hell how. Moreover, evil acts generates only evil consequences, it is unable to give birth to anything pure:

“Khaled: We still have paradise.

Suha: There is no paradise. It only exists in your head” (Beyer).

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Thereby, titles in common are used as a kind of irony, as another hint that tells the audience about subjects, risen in the film.

There are some phenomena in the film that imply several meanings simultaneously. For example, Paradise as a part of the movie aesthetic world is not only an allusion on Hell, or Apocalypse, it is also a strong metaphor of endless search for happiness and truth. Still, both these aims are unachievable for humanity. Nevertheless, humans cannot stop looking for them, for the objective truth and ideal happiness. This search leads humanity to a long way of ups and downs, resulting in a slow and progressive process of development. A road image may be interpreted as a metaphor and a motif simultaneously. As a metaphor, a road presents loneliness of an individual who is lost in uncertainty. Main characters do not know if they will be able to reach their aim; they doubt the aim itself; of course, they cannot be sure, if Paradise really exists. As a motif, a road may be interpreted as a kind of cultural and general phenomenon connected with war and search of a truth. Characters’ road leads not only inside on the enemy territory, but also inside to the eternal moral paradox: their acts are inhumane, but they still implement them following their own certain motifs. Are they right?

A wedding motif is distinctly conspicuous in the movie. Said comes to a photography shop and a wedding video accompanies his visit. Both friends use a wedding alibi for their first mission, and when they lose each other, everybody ask them if they are going to a wedding, as long as they are dressed in natty suits. There are also two characters, who could turn a wedding motif into a greater event in the movie plot – a marriage. Said and Suha like each other, but their relationships do not develop. Family happiness becomes a part of a lost Paradise that cannot be anything but background motif for Said, and, correspondingly, for Suha. Above other symbols of the movie, a symbol of a broken car may be singled out as an important one. Nadia Yaqub wrote that “a prevalence of broken in the film suggests that the entire social and economic fabric of Palestinian society is in trouble” (2010, p. 224-225).

The researcher compared the Paradise Now and Rana’s Wedding movies. She said that in the second film an image of a car is considered a symbol of a small private territory of a Palestinian. Still, in the Paradise movie Said moves in any possible way except driving though in road movies people often prefer cars as a kind of transport. When Khaled looks for Said he drives through streets that are filled with immobile cars. Thereby, in some way, a Paradise Now may be called an anti-road movie (Yaqub 2010, p. 223-226). Cars are often associated with movement as well as they are symbols of welfare and technological advances. Presenting images of broken, crushed, immobile cars, traffic jams and accidents, locked roads, the director may speak about social and economical crisis in Palestine and speak in a critical way.


Beyer, B. (Producer), & Abu-Assad, H. (Director). (2005). Paradise Now [Motion Picture]. Netherlands, Israel, Germany, & France: Warner Independent Pictures.

Bronstein, P. (summer 2010). Man-Made Martyrs in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: Disturbing Manufactured Martyrdom in Paradise Now. Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 52. Web.

Gertz, N., & Khleifi, G. (2008). Palestinian Cinema: Landscape, Trauma and Memory. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

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Giannetti, L. (2010). Understanding Movies (12 Edition). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Glaister, D. (2006). It Was a Joke I Was Even Nominated. The Guardian. Web.

Holden, S. (2005). Terrorists Facing Their Moment of Truth. The New York Times. Web.

Smith, H., & Dean, R. T. (2007). Improvisation, hypermedia and the arts since 1945. London: Routledge.

Yaqub, N. (2010). Narrating a Failed Politics. In J. Gugler (Eds.), Film in the Middle East and North Africa: Creative Dissidence (pp. 291-227). Texas: University of Texas Press.

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