The final part of Ulrich Seidl's Paradise trilogy is alienating and ultimately overstretched
Austrian writer/director Ulrich Seidl made something of a noisy entrance to the already busy field of modern cinematic provocateurs with 2007’s Import/Export depicting dementia in a rather grotesque fashion, but his Paradise trilogy hasn’t aroused quite the same level of controversy. 2012 saw Paradise: Love, a low-key drama about a middle-aged woman searching for romance on the beaches of Africa. The same year Paradise: Faith dealt with an evangelical Viennese housewife’s search for religious meaning. The third part of the trilogy arrives without much fanfare; each film is designed to work as a stand-alone piece, any narrative connections are vaguely drawn.
Paradise: Hope is about Melli (Melanie Lenz), daughter of Verena (Verena Lehbauer) who featured in Paradise Love. While her mother is scouring Kenyan resorts for young men, and her aunt wrestles with her spiritual issues, Melli is farmed off to a residential diet camp. After palling up with a couple of other girls for junk-food, cigarettes and booze-binges, Melli proves to be less than a model pupil, and develops an adolescent crush on the camp’s director Artz (Joseph Lorenz), despite the decades between them.
Like the female characters in the previous films, Melli is looking for love in all the wrong places, and Paradise: Hope’s final installment of the trilogy never looks like building up to any kind of substantial pay-off. Lacking the philosophical power of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours Trilogy, Seidl follows the usual paradigm of European art-house pretention, meticulously observed, well-shot and dramatically inert character studies of uninterestingly everyday people. While sociologically justifiable, the dispassionate nature of Seidl’s observation is deliberately alienating, and the material ultimately feels overstretched; originally conceived as one single portmanteau film, the Paradise trilogy doesn’t have enough meat on its bones to justify four hours of anyone’s life.
Limited release from Fri 2 Aug.