The Academy Awards are starting to build a case against their own validity. In 2005, they nominated a simply amazing film called Downfall in the Best Foreign Film category, but eventually gave the award to The Sea Inside. While Sea is a fine film, it was clear that the Academy got nervous about the ramifications of giving an award to a film about the last days of Adolph Hitler, and took the easy way out.
In 2006, they again got nervous and avoided ultimate controversy by giving their Best…Picture Oscar to the safe vote of Crash, thus avoiding the controversial choice of Brokeback Mountain. Likewise, Paradise Now was also the victim of the weak knees of the Academy. The Foreign Language Oscar in 2006 eventually went to a South African film called Tsotsi, instead of the proper (and controversial) choice of Paradise Now.
Paradise Now is an important and powerful film that tells the story of two lifelong friends who have been chosen to be martyrs for their cause. Unfortunately, they are Palestinians, and their cause is to terrorize the Israeli state. These two men are terrorists in the most frightening and powerful of forms, and the film shows them as real people who truly believe that what they are doing will serve the greater good. Needless to say, this is an extremely controversial film in all parts of the world that have been affected by the bloody hand of terrorism. The positive face of controversy, however, is that is is proof that a film is affecting the public in a real and personal way. This is a film that will undoubtedly spurn dialog among those that see it. Dialog that desperately needs to be on the front of everyone’s mind.
For some reason, it seems to me that this film gets quieter and quieter as it moves along. While the dialog is not in my native tongue, I certainly don’t want to watch a silent film, either. The constant volume adjustments are not a major problem, but they are most definitely a nuisance. Besides this minor annoyance, the audio is nicely balanced, with a nice level of clarity coming from the ambient noise in particular, such as the chirp of birds or voices speaking softly in the distance. There is not a lot of action coming from the back of the room, but then this is not really a “dynamic sound” kind of a film anyway. In the end, the audio is adequate, with a few nice touches of detail coming from the slight ambient sounds deep in the supporting background.
I would consider the video quality on this disc to be fair. On the positive side, the film is shown in it’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, which is used to good effect. Shots are framed expressly to show off the expanse of Tel Aviv and the throngs of people who live there. Unfortunately, with the good comes the bad. The color seems to be a bit on the red side throughout the film. While this does serve to convey the heat of the urban desert setting, it is also a bit too unrealistic for my tastes. Also, the film lacks a certain clarity that I would have liked to have seen. Edge enhancement is a problem, and the whole disc lacks a sharp and tight feel. Now, none of these problems are deal breakers, but don’t expect to go into this film seeing a sharp and crystal clear transfer, either.
What a wasted opportunity. If ever there was a film that cried out for special features, it is this one. This production, which was filmed on location in Israel and Palestine, ran into trouble on a daily basis from officials on both sides of the border who were understandably suspicious of the actions of the film’s crew. The filmmakers wee forced to shoot the film around the presence of tanks and suddenly-erupting gunfire. Not only this, but missile attacks and the kidnapping of the production’s location manager took a harrowing shoot and made it even more difficult. This is a film that simply begs for a lengthy behind-the-scenes featurette or a detailed filmmakers commentary. The fat that it is not here betrays the very learning experience that the film is trying to create.
If there is any justice in the world, this film will find a much larger audience on DVD in North America. This is a film that all Americans should see. While it most certainly doesn’t make me sympathize with terrorists, it definitely presents the situation in a much more evenly balanced manner. Even those that commit the most terrible of acts do so because they believe that what they are doing is right. This is a smart and important film, and I would like nothing more than to see it re-released as a proper two-disc product, with plenty of special features and behind-the-scenes footage. However, I understand that the chance of that happening are extremely small. Therefore, I begrudgingly report that this is the best version of the film available, and that fact is likely to remain true for a long time to come.
Special Features List
- Theatrical Trailer