out of Five
Running time: 109
The Time That Remains is stylishly directed and frequently amusing in a surreal, Jacques Tati sort of way, but the emotional impact and cultural references will be largely lost on Western audiences.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Elia Suleiman (Chronicle of a Disappearance, Divine Intervention), The Time That Remains is a semi-autobiographical series of tragi-comic vignettes, drawn from Suleiman's family history and his own experiences of growing up as an Arab in Israel.
The film is nominally split into four separate time periods: in 1948, Fuad (Saleh Bakri, who bears a weird resemblance to Richard Gere) makes guns for the resistance and has run-ins with the Israeli army; in 1970, Fuad's young son Elia (Ayman Espanioli) gets into trouble at school and observes the goings-on of his weird neighbours; in 1976, Fuad is recovering from surgery while violent anti-Israeli protests rage outside and Elia has to leave the country; and in the present day, Elia (now played by Suleiman) returns to Israel to take care of his ageing mother.
Saleh Bakri's taut, wiry frame brings a quirky, almost cartoonish quality to the early action sequences and the sight of him running along the streets is one of several memorable images. These scenes are heightened by the Suleiman's minimal use of dialogue, all of which adds to the Jacques Tati-like atmosphere of the film (an acknowledged influence).
There's no real plot to speak of, but there are several wonderful scenes, the best of which employ a Tati-influenced streak of absurd humour. Highlights include: the barrel of a tank following a man back and forth as he empties his bins and then paces up and down while talking on his mobile; police attempting to break up a rave but failing to make themselves heard over the music; Elia fantasising about a Keaton-esque pole-vault over the Separation Wall; and a fireworks display observed from a balcony.
The problem with the film is that the lack of a proper narrative makes it difficult to engage with the characters from scene to scene. Similarly, the heavy symbolism and cultural references will be largely lost on anyone unfamiliar with Israel's history, which lessens the emotional impact of the film.
Stylish and distinctive, The Time That Remains is worth seeing for its surreal humour but it's difficult to engage with on an emotional level.
The Time That Remains (15)