Her name was Eliaza. She was like the sun (to paraphrase from the script). For two years, she was my seasonal loverâ€”a 1973 Mercedes Benz 280 SE 4.5.
Iâ€™d fallen in love with the car during my adolescence, probably after Iâ€™d seen Roger Moore, as 007, having removed the tyres and somehow got the car on railway tracks, outpace a train while driving in reverse!
Iâ€™d picked her up in Anoka, for a little over a grand then spent over a year having her restored, mostly with parts I would find on Ebay. I had her painted. Oh, what a specimen she became!
In April or so of 2009, three months before we would shoot the film, the producers sat down to talk about production and fashion design elements. Not that we hadnâ€™t talked about them before. Super 8mm to be used for and depicted in the memory sequences; vintage clothing, dÃ©cor, and gadgets; and locations had been talked about on many occasions.
Yet, now we sat down to try to approach the conclusion of the design discussion. I had mentioned in a previous producers meeting that Iâ€™d fancied having Mohannad drive Eliaza (I hadnâ€™t used that name or the pronoun â€œsheâ€ in talking about her because I didnâ€™t want to freak them out about some over-attachment condition.) I came in ready to argue for the carâ€™s place in the film, having gathered reluctance on Danâ€™s part.
At some point in the meeting, we got around to talking about vehicles. We agreed that my old Volvo station wagon would work well for Flora. â€œHow about Mohannad?â€ I mentioned that I thought that Mohannad ought to drive the Mercedes. Dan responded by saying that he thought the car so big as not to symbolize something worthy of emphasising visually, namely Mohannadâ€™s emotional entrapment. He thought that Mohannad should drive a Pinto. I didnâ€™t disagree or vomit, but pointed out that the advantages were far more potent: The car could well have been one that his deceased Palestinian Ophthalmologist father would have driven, back in the day. Thus, Mohannad would have elected to drive a token of memory as he does in riding his brotherâ€™s Triumph motorbike to Floraâ€™s.
Secondly, I remarked on the carâ€™s following our filmâ€™s visual interest in things retro, as signifiers of memory.
Thirdly, I alerted them to something that I hadnâ€™t thought that any of them knew: the iconic status of Mercedes in the Arab world. Yes, I know that it is iconic here as well, but not in the same way or degree. If youâ€™ve spent time in the Arab World or even the greater Middle East youâ€™d know what I was talking about. Havenâ€™t an idea and would like to get one, get into a shrine rendered 30-year-old Mercedes taxi in Amman and ask the driver what he thinks of Mercedes!
Finally, I exclaimed, â€œAnd because its fucking gorgeous!â€
We agreed. And Eliaza was in, but not for longâ€¦