Paradise Now – The Netherlands/ Germany/ France – Dir: Hany Abu-Assad – 4/5
(This is the review I did when I saw the film at the 2005 Sydney Film Festival. I updated the review when I saw the film a second time.)

Unfortunately this film was shown at the festival without subtitles.  I stayed.  It was a fascinating experience.  I’m dying to see the film again, with subtitles.  The festival has since screened it again twice for free, but I could make neither date.

The English words I could make out were: (ironically) cinema, Israel, Allah, Salam, Tel Aviv, Israeli, 'In case you are lost, use this phone. Just press here,' etc, then ‘I want to go back’.

I was afraid the film would end in conversation and I’d never know what happened, but it didn’t.  It ended in pure cinema – a Sergio Leone shot - Said's eyes – absolute close-up!

Without subtitles, the film was quite hard to pick up until the guys began their preparations.  They argue and talk with a mother and girlfriend (?) – and this bit was hard going.  But then they make their last statements on video (with a New England backdrop – more irony!). They bathe, clean teeth, shave, dress in black suits, have a Last Supper (under a fluoro light) & arm themselves. They are utterly transformed into Clive Owen- & Sir Clive Woodward-look-alikes (Sir Clive Woodward was the coach of the UK rugby team). They toss a coin to decide who goes first. Then there’s a terrible mistake that leaves Said still strapped up & all alone – the situation is horrific.

It was a fascinating experience to see a film like this without subtitles.  I have since seen it with the subtitles, and it was even more fabulous.  Much is explained.  But it is still the same film.  It made me realise (once again) just how much can be conveyed by cinema, without language.

This is a film that is important to see if you care at all about our world and the people struggling in it.