In the second installment of Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise trilogy, Anna Maria is a devout Catholic whose life is dominated by religion: she spends all her time praying to a painting of Jesus, flagellating herself in front of his incarnation on the cross, playing religious hymns on her electric organ, getting together with her prayer group (for Austria to become Catholic again!) or running all over Vienna trying to salvage nonbelievers’ souls with the help of a plastic incarnation of the Virgin Mary, a candle and incense. Eventually she masturbates with a crucifix.
Complications arise when her paraplegic Muslim husband comes back home. How such a devout Catholic ended up marrying a Muslim or where he was previously is never explained: it’s just simply the catalyst used by Seidl to show humans in the process of making each other suffer – a lot. Of course they might deserve it, or not. Or you might want to laugh at so much absurdity.
But the beatings she suffers and the final violence that she’s forced to endure feel even more uncomfortable after laughing at an attempted drunken lesbian seduction by a fallen soul during one of her house calls. The biggest problem with this sort of religious parody is its (lack of) timing. This stuff may have scandalized Grandma and the nation in the 1970s, but it’s hardly worth a rosary bead now.
Paradise: Faith (Paradies: Glaube) | Directed by Ulrich Seidl (Austria, Germany, France 2012) with Maria Hofstäter, Nabil Saleh, Natalya Baranova. Starts March 21