Published Dec 01, 2002In Divine Intervention: A Chronicle of Love and Pain, Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman crafts a surreal portrait of life in the Occupied Territories out of a series of somewhat disjointed vignettes that make palpable the frustrating repetitiveness of daily existence in the region. The film starts off in Nazareth, where a series of absurdist tales show this mundane life leading again and again to outbursts of petty violence between neighbours (undoubtedly both a metaphor for the region and the realistic manifestation of a larger political impotence). About halfway though, the film changes focus to concentrate on a love story between the filmmaker and a militant freedom fighter, who can only meet at a checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramalah because her movement is restricted. The film itself is slick and stylised, creating a dreamlike landscape that blurs reality and fantasy. Its non-linear structure and elusive storytelling sacrifice a compelling narrative for a more successful evocation of the rage and frustration that is seething just below the surface of its inhabitants. The film indulges some rather violent revenge fantasies and obvious martyr imagery that are somewhat difficult to watch, maybe pointedly so, as it uses Matrix-style movement and a pounding electronic soundtrack that seem too stylised to be completely sincere, but then again too glorifying to be entirely satirical. This is a bold film, unflinching in its political sympathies, and fascinating to watch for its artful style and inventive construction.