When Reza Parsa made a frighteningly topical short A la rencontre du mal in which his static camera was placed in the interior of the car, where his protagonist girdled with bombs, his face covered with sweat, wrote his farewell video letter to his daughter, before he went on his last suicidal mission, many people were unsure whether the author became apologetic towards terrorism or his greatest enemy. But the most frightening thing was a fact that the author portrayed his protagnist as the ordinary guy from next door who lost his patience and literally decided to “explode of life”. In that particular moment, he was not a martyr, but the equivalent of those PTSP diagnosed Croatian warriors who kill themselves with a saw or cover their bodies with gasoline because they can’t stand it any more. He became a part of the same system in which everything is already blown away.
This is the same world Santosh Sivan portrayed in The Terrorist and Hany Abu-Assad in the mesmerizing drama Paradise Now. All three films follow last days (hours, minutes) and agonies of suicide bombers: a guy from the unknown dictatorship (Parsa), a Tamil tigress (Sivan) and two Palestinian ‘martyrs’ sacrificing their own and other lives for what they believe in, or maybe they don’t believe any more (Abu-Assad). But while Sivan is highly poetic in the representation of his characters’ long day’s journey into night, when red flower petals flutter around the detonator, symbolizing blood, Parsa and Abu-Assad stick to the more realistic, straightforward and matter-of-fact portrayal of what happens when madness and fanaticism start to rule the world.
But while Abu-Assad’s previous film Rana’s Wedding was a triumph of love over stupidity, Paradise Now is a triumph of despair and insecurity. In one of the crucial film moments, his female protagonist gave Said a short lesson about the film genre, trying in some way to compare the emptiness of their life with Japanese minimalist cinema. Actually, in their black minimalist suits, they even looked like they just left Yohji Yamamoto’s boutique. But where in final shot The Terrorist is focused on fingers, Paradise Now shows the beautiful protagonist’s eyes. In both instances, it is hardly uncertain whether the bomb will explode. Their stories rely on gestures, suspicions, expectations, interior disputes and disagreements. No, Abu-Assad did not make a terrorist propaganda movie. He was simply trying to follow the phrase Godard uttered while talking about his film on Palestinian revolution, Here and Elsewhere (Ici et ailleurs): “I didn’t judge them, but I tried to judge myself”.
In the paranoid world dominated by the fear of the people like Said and Khaled, A-list film festivals became fortified places with metal detectors and thousands of uniformed men. After the Venice experience, attending the friendly and unconventional atmosphere of the Oslo Film Festival, better known as “Films From the South”, seems like being on a different planet. Maybe the festival has the smallest red carpet in the world. But it has definitely the biggest red heart.