Zeitgeist Films // 2007 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // October 15th, 2011
I have nothing against Israelis, but I hesitated before I phoned him. I really needed my bag.
Eyal (Liron Levo, Miral), an Israeli national, and Rana (Lubna Azabal, Body of Lies), a Palestinian living in France, are both in Berlin for the World Cup to root for their teams. When they get they switch each other's bags on a bus, they meet up to exchange them and, having nothing else to do, start hanging out together. They have a spark, but politics and their respective cultures get in the way of their romance.
I've seen quite a few films now where an Israeli falls in love with a Palestinian and I'm starting to get the sense that, in essence, they're all the same. It's clear from the opening moments how romance between the characters will work out and Strangers does nothing to make me question my notions of these films. It's not a bad movie by any means; the performances are strong and the story makes sense, but there's no drama here because everything they do has been played out by every other film that uses this cross-cultural matchup. Granted, it's rife with political baggage, but it seems like these films are afraid to actually approach the politics. Guy Nattiv and Erez Tadmor, the writer/director combo of Strangers, appear to try to breach those boundaries by using the Israeli attack on Lebanon, but it winds up only being used as a roadblock to their romance instead of the drama it might have had. Eventually, these films all feel like Romeo and Juliet knockoffs played during modern times, pushing aside any actual relevance for the rote progression of a romance film.
Still, Strangers is a decent filmed, well made and solidly acted. Even if there's no question as to how the relationship will work out, the performances from Levo and Azabal are strong. They have good chemistry together and it's easy to root for their success, though there's no suspense in the drama to make you wonder. The story is well-filmed and there are some interesting soccer sequences that try to parallel the political struggles going on outside of Berlin, which the lovers see and deal with together, but none of it ever gels into anything substantial or all that interesting.
Strangers comes to us from Zeitgeist Films in a very standard package. The anamorphic image is nothing spectacular, but is an adequate image with good detail and colors. The sound is a standard stereo mix with nothing to laud, but nothing to complain about, either. The only extra is a trailer.
Strangers is a frustrating film. There's much about it that could have been great, and the setting could have made the politics behind the romance both muted by the distance from the action and more explosive for the same reason. Unfortunately, Nattiv and Tadmor cut the corners on all counts, using the national conflicts to force some personal conflict, but betraying themselves by allowing it to all be okay with a smile. In the end, it's cheap romance that, while competent in all facets, is a film I have a hard time recommending.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated