The stunning conclusion to Austrian provocateur Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise trilogy unfolds in a diet camp, where its 13-year-old heroine falls for the 40-year-old camp doctor.
A stunning conclusion to his Paradise trilogy, Ulrich Seidl's Paradise: Hope is the latest offering from the Austrian auteur. With his roots in documentary, and his eyes firmly set on the less-attractive sides of the human animal and its psyche, Seidl is the perfect chronicler of our futile attempts to grasp at a "normal life." Following Paradise: Love's story of one woman's search for love on the white beaches of Kenya, and, in Paradise: Faith, another's self-inflicted punishment in the name of Jesus, this new film checks us into a weight-loss camp for overweight teens.
Melanie (Melanie Lenz) is the thirteen year- old daughter of Paradise: Love's Teresa, who has tucked Melanie away in a diet camp in the middle of the Austrian countryside. Seidl monitors Melanie's frustrations and blossoming sexuality, including the emotional upheaval caused by her crush on the forty-year-old camp doctor.
Not one to judge, Seidl simply states the facts here, showing us the place and its inhabitants, examining the mentality of staff and patients, and their perverse way of imposing "normality." He offers a painful account of the troubles of adolescence, culminating in a surreal, one-of-a-kind coming-of-age film. Not surprisingly, he also manages to sneak in moments of awkward humour.
Even though the title suggests a glimmer
of hope for its young heroine, this seems to
be as elusive as the slimmer version of herself
that she so desperately strives for.