WHEN TIME BECOMES A WOMAN
(Henama Ykoon el Zaman Untha)
When Time Becomes a Woman boasts that it the first science-fiction film made in Jordan. It is a debut feature for Ahmad Alyaseer, a Jordanian filmmaker in his early twenties, who normally runs a wedding photography business. Alyaseer shot the film with a two-person cast with many of them doubling as behind-the-scenes crew making up a five-person production crew in total. The film was shot in a remote area of Amman on the shores of the Dead Sea, which borders Jordan and Israel (it being so named because of the high saline content in the water that prevents plant life from growing in the area, which leads to a strikingly beautiful and desolate locale). The film received some international festival play.
I have to admit it took me a while to become invested in When Time Becomes a Woman. If I was one of these people who switch off/walk out after the first 20 minutes/half-hour then I probably would not have made it to discover what the film holds. The early scenes seem to float around issues of a philosophical nature. Zaid Baqeen catches up with Najwan Baqeen and tells her that he has been trying to find her for three years and that she must come away with him on a matter of great urgency. She demands to know why. For a long time, the film ducks back and forward on these questions of why she should trust anything he says and associated philosophical questions of outlook, gender relations and so on. This is interesting but on its own somewhat dull, although I did like the way that the script kept dancing around possibilities but stayed on an existential fence, never proving, never denying anything, just contrasting possibilities about what could be the case and boiling everything down to a crucial issue of why either is right in their claims and why anybody should trust each other.
Things start to become interesting when Najwan Baqaeen speaks of an admiration for the revolutionary leader Zad and Zaid Baqaeen then reveals he is that person. This leads to discussion about imprisonment and freedom, the idea of what the revolutionary represented contrasted with the reality of the person before her and the gradual revelation that he was responsible for releasing a virus to kill off the invaders (the subtitling never seems to specify whether this refers to invaders in the alien sense or in terms of terrestrial occupiers of land one presumes the latter). A series of progressive revelations reveal that his actions were in fact responsible for killing off all life on Earth.
This however is only the beginning of the revelations that are in store. The film passes through a series of twists and turns about what happened, who the two really are and the circumstances that led them there, not to mention his reasons for wanting her to come away with him. These prove to be quite astonishing as the surprises are gradually unveiled. I wont spoil any of these for you because they are the things that make the film work and should be preserved and viewed without foreknowledge. Indeed, without them, When Time Becomes a Woman is just two people standing about talking. What particularly impresses about the film is how it manages to stretch to doing the conceptual reversal switches of science-fiction films like Open Your Eyes (1997), Dark City (1998), The Matrix (1999) et al and produces twists that are as ingenious as any of these but never goes any further than just two people talking on a beach. That is a feat of considerable ingenuity. The ending the film reaches and the way this twists around on the words that Zaid Baqeen had said earlier about who he is and what he represents has a considerable bite and is haunting.