To understand “Divine Intervention,” you must know that there is a checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem, a dividing point between the Palestinians and the Israelis. (I will assume you already knew those two groups hate each other.)
Even with that knowledge, however, this is a hard film to get but an enjoyable one to watch. Virtually without dialogue or plot, it is presented as a series of vignettes that range from the amusing to the bizarre, all showing the difficulty of daily life in Jerusalem and environs under the current political circumstances. Some scenes even seem to repeat themselves, which I suppose symbolizes the sense of futility and boredom that must arise when a hostile environment makes it impossible to do anything interesting with your life.
The film begins with Santa Claus being chased and ultimately stabbed by young boys. Then, we see an older man driving his car, waving politely to everyone he sees as he mutters obscenities about them. You will agree, I’m sure, that a film beginning this way is worth sticking around for.
In the Nazareth neighborhood where the profane old man lives, there is an assortment of ill-tempered folks. A woman burns things in her yard, a guy in a white tank-top destroys whatever he can get his hands on, another man throws his trash in a neighbor’s yard every morning.
Eventually, we meet a man whose name we never learn and who never speaks, a fellow reminiscent of Chaplin or Keaton played by Elia Suleiman, who also wrote and directed the film. He lives in Jerusalem but is in love with a woman (Manal Khader) who lives in Raballah. Since passing through the checkpoint is difficult, they meet in a parking lot on the border, sit in his car, and hold hands in the most sexy, seductive manner I have ever witnessed. All around them, chaos reins, presented with mordant wit.
It culminates in a weirdly choreographed scene set at a shooting range, where elements of music videos and “The Matrix” are brought into the mix and the religious symbolism flows freely.
What does it all mean? I have no earthly idea. Additional viewings would probably clear up a few points, but those would need to go in a critical analysis, not a movie review. A movie review is for people who plan to see a movie one time, not make it their thesis project. A viewer taking in “Divine Intervention” will find interesting camera angles and deadpan, burlesque-style humor and a lot of amusing things to look at. What you get out of it, well, that’s your business.
B (1 hr., 29 min.; in Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles; )