Intended as an homage to writer/director/star Elia Suleiman’s late father, the film (released in 2002, but new on DVD) endeavors to employ poetic license in its interpretation of the shell-shocked hotbed surrounding lovers from Jerusalem and Ramallah (played by the director and the Israeli actress, Manal Khader, pictured above). There’s a wealth of material to be mined from both the location and its characters, but Suleiman opts for the restrictive terrain of deadpan surrealism. If familiarity breeds contempt, then the streets of repetitious violence and its dulled denizens soon become as monotonous as one of the heated confrontations staged so meticulously for the camera. One rare prophetic, engaging touch is the figure of Yasser Arafat envisioned as a helium balloon, hot air and empty promises floating over the ravaged horizon.
Stoicism in the midst of jack-in-the-box terrorism requires a dose of irony, but that’s been pummeled out of the script, or perhaps its writer—along with the sense of longing that would have given the lovers a little heat during their celibate clandestine meetings. (The film is blatantly awestruck and upstaged by Khadar’s beauty.) The decision to mount Divine Intervention as an oblique, interior observation requires more artistry than Suleiman appears to possess. Scenes which probably read well in the script—the hunt and extermination of Santa Claus; Khader’s seductive walk through a military checkpoint; a reference to a Dali portrait of Christ—are met by creative indifference in the direction, as hollow as those tears cried when Suleiman’s character chops onions, owing less to Fellini and Buñuel than music videos…and one explanation of why Suleiman’s face is set in eternal melancholia.