Part II of iconoclast Austrian director Ulrich Seidl’s trilogy on the three theological virtues had Venice abuzz with scenes involving a crucifix.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves – although, as might be expected, sex also looms large in Part I entitled Paradise: Love.
Sex always has been a constant in Seidl’s movies: from Dog Days to Import Export, it is explored as a commodity that services a physical need divorced, with few exceptions, from emotional satisfaction.
So when 50-year-old Teresa (Maragarethe Tiesel) takes her frustrated middle-aged self to Kenya for some sexual pampering, her hope that sex might be the start of a wider sentimental attachment is inevitably disappointed. Love is not part of this picture. And that is part of its problem.
Although (nearly) all the protagonists are shown as victims of sex tourism, there is no empathy, certainly no sympathy: just the relentless deconstruction of romantic expectations and hard socio-economic realities. And some scenes, including one with a toy-boy rented by Teresa’s friends to celebrate her birthday, are so grindingly extended that the protagonists eventually disappear behind a statement on post-colonial arrogance.
The structured improvisation and documentary-style cinematography go some way towards justifying the extreme factuality of Seidl’s approach, although even this, in turn, is undermined by the use of deliberate stylistic devices in the opening and closing shots. Keeping faith with Seidl now depends on Paradise: Faith.
Paradies: Liebe (Paradise: Love) | Directed by Ulrich Seidl (Austria, Germany, France 2012) with Margarethe Tiesel. Starts January 3