Loosely based on a real story, Private evokes a series of days in the life of an affluent Palestinian family whose home is taken hostage by Israeli soldiers who wish to use the house as a watchtower. The film’s nameless locale, situated somewhere between a Palestinian village and Israeli settlements, is a purgatory that stinks of fear and looming death. “Shadows are not real,” Mohammad (Mohammad Bakri) tells one of his children, sound fatherly advice that takes on great aesthetic and philosophical meaning when the Israelis come charging into his house in the middle of the night: Prohibited from using the upstairs part of the home, the family is confined to the shadows of their living room when the sun goes down. A horror film about the ongoing Israeli-Palestine occupation, Private is unlike anything I’ve ever seen: it looks and feels like Session 9 but it rattles the soul like The Gate of the Sun. This house is an allegory for the Israeli occupation, its inhabitants haunted and frustrated by the absurdity of their situation, and every action in the film represents a different strain on the body politic. While the stoic Mohammad looks to ride out the home invasion, his understandably angry children wish to revolt. Enticed by the white noise of the family’s television set, one of Mohammad’s sons rigs the greenhouse in the front yard with an explosive device; his daughter is equally daring, taking trips upstairs in order to hide in a hallway bureau and listen to the conversations between the Israeli soldiers. It’s impossible to really explain the intensity of the girl’s trips upstairs, the great allegorical import Costanzo’s camera takes on when the girl closes (and opens) the door to the bureau, or the heart-stopping note of confidentiality the film chooses to end on. I’m not entirely comfortable with Private‘s lack of objectivity, but as a person interested in the farce of the Israeli-Palestine conflict, Costanzo shares my sympathies. Besides, the point of Private isn’t to inspire Israeli resentment but to radically and experimentally dramatize the horror of the refugee experience and the strain it has on the human spirit. When asked by Commander Ofer (Lior Miller) why he and his family don’t leave the house, Mohammad reminds the man that it’s their home—when Mohammad turns around and asks the soldier the same question, there is no answer. It’s a rudimentary exchange, but the truth is often simple, something this powerhouse of a film understands from beginning to end.
- Typecast Releasing
- 90 min
- Saverio Costanzo
- Camilla Costanzo, Saverio Costanzo, Alessio Cremonini, Sayed Qashua
- Lior Miller, Mohammad Bakri, Tomer Russo, Areen Omari, Hend Ayoub, Karem Emad Hassan Aly, Marco Alsaying, Sarah Hamzeh, Amir Hasayen, Niv Shafir, Sahar Lachmy
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