Movie Review – The Time that Remains
This is a semi-biographical film written and directed by Elia Suleiman and stars Elia Suleiman. It gives an account of ordinary life of Palestinian people after 1948 to the present. Film begins with account of his father’s life as a resistance fighter in 1948 and his mother’s letters to family members who were forced to leave the country during the same period. It continues on to show ordinary, routine life for Israeli- Arabs remaining in Israel.
The film is set in the context of the tense political history but it does not get into the politics. It is a people’s story, chronicling their daily lives with touching moments of familial intimacy, like when the Israeli soldiers roughly handle Faud Suleiman as they are taking him into custody based on some charge and his wife gently straightens the collar of his jacket. There are scenes where Palestinians living under constant threat of harassment from Israeli soldiers are hyper vigilant and then there are scenes where nothing bothers them anymore. For instance, while the teens are dancing in a disco, the soldiers come and announce a curfew over and over and yet no one stops the music and the dancing continues. And there is a time when a man comes out to throw garbage and an Israeli tank at the distance of less than a few feet aims the target at him. His cell phone rings and he begins talking on the phone. He continues chatting, walking back and forth, as the tank moves the aim, back and forth, keeping him in the target.
The film with its deadpan wit and ironical absurdities, is a grim and sorrowful tale of life for the Palestinians, after 1948. Life holds little hope, little joy. Without opportunities for meaningful employment, young people while away their time in gossip. The old drink endless cups of tea or weave tales of conspiracy. Everyone suffers from various maladies, including diabetes and other stress disorders. This film does not make you cry. Instead, it leave a grim, melancholic heaviness in your heart about unsolved, crestfallen, clear and confused, desperate, yet calm and routine ordinariness of lives of people, generation after generation. It makes you feel the burden of life, of the time that remains.