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Coping with the irreversible, the cultural aftermath of the creation of Israel
The Time That Remains starts in 1948 in Palestine with the invasion by the Israeli armed forces. This event casts a long shadow over the entire movie. It's a Palestinian account, occasionally a very personal account, of how life has continued since then. The movie is contending that in cultural terms there's been a huge degradation, and people have lived in stasis, their lives not moving forward at all.
The movie is a farce which reminds me of the Georgian cinematic tradition of military/political farces such as Brigands Chapter VII from Otar Iosseliani and Repentance from Tenghiz Abuladze. It's very funny at times, and very deadpan, but at others it's very poignant. For example there is literally a tug'o'war in a hospital corridor (shot from outside the building - a neutral absurd position typical of this film) between policemen and doctors concerning a wounded man on a gurney, who presumably is wanted for "questioning".
It's an autobiographical film which is shot on a human level and is therefore a lot more palatable than other politically motivated movies on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It's a film that takes place over many years, culminating in the present day. Over the period there's a decline in health of the characters shown, and also in the cultural health, the young consume only American pop and films, gangsterism and culturally tolerated theft is commonplace. The movie could have been a lot stronger for sure on this point, Israeli forces have destroyed the Palestinian infrastructure. Given that it's a Palestinian point of view, I think it's remarkably even handed.
Suleiman views the occupation as implacable, his neighbour (who is mentally broken by the occupation) one day converses with Suleiman's father and says that he's discovered the secret to fight the occupation, the answer is the (un-Muslim) option of drinking arak, once drunk on arak, the Israeli planes are close enough to be plucked out of the air. That's the level of impotence that I think the characters in the film feel about events.
I think there's a sense of shame as well. I remember when Cheney's forces invaded Iraq, the speed with which they overcame the nation was viewed as a great shame for Arabs across the entire Middle East. The capitulation of Palestine is depicted the same way here, total and almost immediate, with the Mayor of Nazareth signing over the city to the Israelis without a word of protest. All we really see of Palestinian soldiers is a bunch of them jettisoning their keffiyehs and weapons and running for dear life before an engagement has even started. One man marches into an Israeli post and shoots himself as an act of defiance and protest, but this is portrayed with nil gravitas by Suleiman, as pointless as shouting at the wind.
The film is really a treasure trove of absurd vignettes that I don't want to delve into too deeply and spoil the movie for you, but I've got a list of at least ten other highly memorable moments in this film.
For you all you Americans out there, the movie is quite hostile towards American foreign policy. You won't see an American in the movie though. I don't think it's that controversial, it's pretty clear that the only real special relationship the US has had over the last half a century, in foreign policy terms, has been with Israel, and that's been to the detriment of the Palestinians.
I think the movie is a masterpiece of cogent dissent.
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