An apolitical carjacker discovers his latest heist contains a kidnapped Israeli soldier in Muayad Alayan’s sly but uneven black-and-white semi-comedy, “Love, Theft and Other Entanglements.” In its hesitant sense of mise-en-scene and unpolished script, the pic displays multiple signs of a tyro feature helmer shooting his own story and co-producing with family, yet especially in the second half, he brings his themes into sharper focus and adds pointed digs at all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The fuzzy title won’t help the marketing effort, but smaller fests and Arab showcases might take a look.
Alayan’s visual style might be a draw for those searching for self-consciously arty fare, since it combines decent black-and-white lensing with a distancing effect via mostly long and mid-length shots. The helmer states he chose this look in order to home in on how the protag’s surroundings impact his psychological state, yet the result is a frustrating detachment, and the goal of asserting the influence of locale on character and behavior rarely comes through in a meaningful way.
Hapless petty thief Mousa (Sami Metwasi) steals a car, drives it to a secluded spot and then tries to sell parts to chop-shop fence Ibrahim (Nicola Zreineh). Mousa’s goal is to get out of Palestine, by whatever means possible — preferably with Manal (Maya Abu Alhayyat), the married woman he’s been sleeping with for years. When a few thugs rough him up asking about a car he stole, he goes and checks the vehicle to discover Israeli soldier Avi (Riyad Sliman) tied up in the trunk.
Hoping to parlay the hostage to his advantage, the not-very-bright Mousa tries playing all sides, thinking he can grab ransom money and finally get out of the country. Avi doesn’t seem like a particularly valuable captive, but that’s one of Alayan’s points: Both Mousa and Avi are schlemiels. The difference, driven home by background news items about unequal prisoner exchanges, is that Avi is Israeli and therefore a lucrative bargaining chip.
This sort of background detail is what helps bring “Entanglements” into sharper focus. From the start, when a car drives through Jerusalem streets over-bedecked with Israeli flags, to radio reports spelling out how many Palestinians are worth one Israeli, to graffiti succinctly damning the Oslo Accords, the pic drives home the idea that no matter how apolitical a local might be, it’s impossible to live in the Occupied Territories and not be caught up in the humiliation and power dynamics. What really saves the film, though, is the incorporation of absurdist humor (Mousa’s interview before a panel of NGOs is the highlight), helping to counter the lensing’s distancing effect. A jazzy score is fitfully used.
Berlin Film Review: 'Love, Theft and Other Entanglements'
Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 6, 2015. Runing time: 94 MIN. (Original title: “Al-Hob wa Al-Sariqa wa Mashakel Ukhra”)
(Palestine) A Palcine Prods. production. Produced by Muayad Alayan, Rami Alayan.
Directed by Muayad Alayan. Screenplay, Muayad Alayan, Rami Alayan. Camera (B&W), Muayad Alayan; editor, Sameer Qumsiyeh; music, Nathan Daems; production designer, Sami Zarour; costume designer, Hamada Atallah; sound, Sameer Qumsiyeh; sound designer, Kostas Fylaktidis, Giannis Gianakopulos; line producer, Noor Hodaly; assistant director, Ihab Jadallah; casting, Jadallah, Hodaly.
Sami Metwasi, Maya Abu Alhayyat, Ramzi Maqdisi, Riyad Sliman, Kamel Elbasha, Hussein Nakhleh, Valantina Abu Oqsa, Mustafa Abu Hanood, Nicola Zreineh, Mohammad Othman.