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The third installment in Ulrich Seidl's PARADISE trilogy, PARADISE: HOPE tells the story of overweight 13-year-old Melanie and her first love. While her mother travels to Kenya (PARADISE: LOVE) and her aunt (PARADISE: FAITH) does missionary work, Melanie spends her summer vacation at a strict diet camp for overweight teenagers. Between physical education and nutrition counseling, pillow fights and her first cigarette, Melanie falls in love with the camp director, a doctor 40 years her senior. As the doctor struggles with the guilty nature of his desire, Melanie had imagined her paradise differently.
Some of the best evocations of the excruciating inarticulacy of first love that we've seen --Indiewire
Tying up his trilogy in style, Seidl's film unsettles and provokes with wit and composure --Empire Magazine
Compelling... Tender --Variety
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Seidl’s aim is authenticity,yet you wonder how say he set up the 1st film,Paradise: Love,where sugar mamas,over 50s Austrian women,partaking of sex tourism, look for love and sex with the beach boys,who are all non-actors,give them ‘love’ in exchange for money,a form of global prostitution.There are scenes of embarrassment for the beach boys(as well as the excellent actor playing Teresa),where you thought the global sex trade operates in 3rd World countries for western tourists.For the beach boys,love is business,and they have wives and children to support.Similarly,Seidl takes the three theological virtues and transposes them into the modern world,shorn of all their metaphysical connotations,despite the middle film,Paradise:Faith depicting a Catholic fundamentalist,who does missionary work during her vacation,so that Austria may be brought back to the path of virtue.She targets immigrants.She’s seenstruggling to convert an alcoholic Russian prostitute.She carries a two foot high statue of the Virgin Mary from door to door.Her real struggle begins when her husband,an Egyptian Muslim,after years of absence,confined to a wheelchair, comes home.She only has love for Jesus,and prefers masturbation with a cross to sex with her husband.Such a battle between the estranged couple ensues over his rights as a married man and their differences of religious belief.This was my favourite of the 3 films due to the beautiful way each scene is shot,almost perfect,and the strength of subject matter,the acting.
Seidl does not write dialogue,although his films are based on scripts,but the settings,pre-production and what comes out during filming,leads to a certain measure of improvisation.Seidl seems to want to disturb or discomfort the viewer.He’s a provocateur, delving into Austria’s psyche,in a confrontative manner,crafting a state of the nation work of art.His camera’s gaze is unflinching, straddling fiction and non-fiction, in an age of globalisation,exploring the consumerist ethos where the West can buy anything.He wants viewers to identify with his hapless protagonists.Anna Maria’s self flagellation,though medieval,is believable.He asks a lot of the actors.Melanie (Lenz) ,the overweight adolescent,trying to lose weight at the boot camp in Paradise: Hope, develops a crush on the camp doctor,there’s no overt sexuality in their encounters.You feel he is sending up Austria’s past through the militaristic PT intructor’s.There is a lot of humour in all 3 films,even if its of a scabrous kind:” If you’re happy and you know it,clap your fat!”as the teenage dieters sing in a group in English.All 16 camp inmates perform under their real names.Lenz had experienced an actual Diatcamp prior to being cast.All 3 films take place over the same summer. The recurring motif in Love,where an emotionally bereft Teresa tries and fails to reach Melli on the phone,counterpointed by Melli’s own attempts to ring her mother for emotional reassurance.Her auntie at the start of the film(the one in Faith) is shown taking her to the camp.Not always easy to watch but rewarding,when you realize that Seidl is one of those pathfinder film makers, attempting to make such films.