Elia Suleiman’s Divine Intervention is a film that would seem to owe more to avant-garde choreography and the cinema of Michael Snow than to narrative film, were it not so insistently “about something” besides its structural ingenuity. Less schematic than Chronicle of a Disappearance, Suleiman’s 1996 feature, Divine Intervention is similarly focused on the corrosive impact of political instability on social order and private life.

“The film isn’t an historical or anthropological study,” Suleiman says. “You don’t come away with a geographic or political knowledge of that place but rather a sense of ambience. A lot of reactions have been self-reflective. In New York a woman told me, ‘Your Nazareth is a lot like my Los Angeles.’ In Montreal they felt they were seeing something of their own. If we talk about brutality, it’s the ambience of brutality we’re living in all over the world.”

You can read the complete version of this article in the January / February print edition of Film Comment.