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PARADISE: LOVE

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by Ulrich Seidl

grade: 8

In Paradise: Love we find all the constants of Ulrich Seidl’s cinema in a deeply intelligent, painful and merciless work. The cynicism and hypocrisy of human beings, the difference between social classes, but also – and above all – a deep loneliness and a desperate need for love are the absolute protagonists. Can there ever be an even faint chance of salvation? The director seems to have no doubt about it.

Hakuna Matata

The Paradise trilogy is, after Dog Days (2001), probably Ulrich Seidl‘s most famous work abroad. Consisting of the films Paradise: Love (2012), Paradise: Faith (2012) and Paradise: Hope (2013), it was initially intended to be presented in the form of a single film and only later did Seidl decide to make three films of it. Just as it was recently the case for Rimini and Sparta (2022), later reunited in the feature film Wicked Games Rimini Sparta (2023).

Also in this trilogy, therefore, we see how some of the habits particularly rooted in the society in which we live are depicted before the camera with all their most controversial aspects and observed by Seidl with a critical but also, depending on the occasion (with regard, in particular, to the moments of weakness experienced by the characters) particularly compassionate gaze.

In Paradise: Love, therefore, we initially meet all three protagonists of the trilogy. Teresa (played by Margarethe Tiesel) is a middle-aged woman who works as a carer for some disabled people. One day, the woman accompanies her daughter (Melanie Lenz, protagonist of Paradise: Hope) to a relative (Maria Hofstätter, protagonist of Paradise: Faith), as she is about to leave for a holiday in Kenya, in a luxury resort. There, she will meet numerous other tourists like her from Austria, along with numerous locals who are constantly trying to sell her products they have made and who, in exchange for money, are also ready to prostitute themselves. Following her encounter with Munga (Peter Kazungu), who initially seems sincerely interested in her, Teresa will delude herself that she has finally found love.

Paradise: Love, therefore, is a truthful and disenchanted portrayal of a reality that has taken hold for many years now. The desire to experience something extraordinary, but also the observation with a falsely compassionate gaze towards “distant” cultures and peoples inevitably lead to considering human beings as sexual objects or picturesque characters who barely speak our language (particularly significant, in this regard, the scenes in which the protagonist, together with a friend, laughs at the accent with which a bartender pronounces certain sentences in German, or when, during Teresa’s birthday party, her friends bring a young Kenyan into her room with the intention of making him a sort of sex toy).

Bright colours and pastel tones show us real paradises on earth, where everything initially seems to be fine. “Hakuna Matata”. No problem, everything is fine, as the employees of the hotel where Teresa is staying repeat over and over again. Yet, next to so much luxury, within squalid and cramped surroundings (strictly represented by mostly static shots, especially in indoor scenes) we immediately notice the dramatic conditions of indigence in which the locals live. In Paradise: Love, money plays a central role, but while for some it simply serves to survive, for others it is a means to even buy people’s love.

Teresa is essentially a lonely woman. Her daughter never calls her and even seems to have forgotten her birthday. And while her party turns out to be a failure, to say the least, what remains is a lonely walk on the beach (while, at the same time, some boys continue to dance and do somersaults in order to entertain the tourists), sadly aware that she is hopelessly alone. In Paradise: Love, then, we find all the constants of Ulrich Seidl’s cinema in a deeply intelligent, painful and merciless work. The cynicism and hypocrisy of human beings, the difference between social classes, but also – and above all – a deep loneliness and a desperate need for love are the absolute protagonists. Can there ever be an even faint chance of salvation? The director seems to have no doubt about it.

Original title: Paradies: Liebe
Directed by: Ulrich Seidl
Country/year: Austria, Germany, France / 2012
Running time: 120’
Genre: drama
Cast: Margarethe Tiesel, Peter Kazungu, Inge Maux, Dunja Sowinetz, Helen Brugat, Gabriel Mwarua, Josphat Hamisi, Carlos Mkutano, Melanie Lenz, Maria Hofstätter, Leonora Migide, Anderson Mutisya
Screenplay: Ulrich Seidl, Veronika Franz
Cinematography: Edward Lachmann, Wolfgang Thaler
Produced by: Ulrich Seidl Filmproduktion, Tatfilm, Coproduction Office

Info: the page of Paradise: Love on iMDb; the page of Paradise: Love on the website of the Ulrich Seidl Filmproduktion; the page of Paradise: Love on the website of the Österreichisches Institut