Paradise: Hope (Paradies: Hoffnung) (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner01/08/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

The third film in Austrian writer-director Ulrich Seidl's Paradise trilogy is an engaging, frequently darkly funny and disarmingly warm-hearted drama with a terrific central performance from Melanie Lenz.

What's it all about?
Paradise: Hope is the third film in writer-director Ulrich Seidl's Paradise trilogy, centring on three women in the same family who each have different experiences during a summer vacation. The third film stars Melanie Lenz as 13 year old Melanie (or Melli), who's dropped off at a diet camp for overweight teenagers by her aunt Anna Maria (Maria Hoffstatter, the subject of Paradise: Faith, briefly appearing here) while her mother Teresa (the subject of Paradise: Love) is holidaying in Kenya.

The camp is run by a strict gym coach (Michael Thomas) who could be out of 1970s Grange Hill (‘Discipline! Discipline! DISCIPLINE!’), a stern nutritionist (Viviane Bartsch) who makes them sing ‘If you're happy and you know it, clap your fat’ (in English) every day and a worryingly laid-back middle-aged doctor (Joseph Lorenz) on whom Melli develops an inappropriate crush that may or may not be reciprocated. At the same time, Melli bonds with her three fellow bunk-mates (Verena Lehbauer, Hannes A. Pendl and Johanna Schmid as Verena, Hannes and Johanna) and gets up to various activities including midnight fridge-raiding, drunken games of Spin The Bottle and a sneaky trip to a local bar.

The Good
Lenz is terrific as ordinary, likeable teenager Melli and there's a strong sense that she's found kindred spirits at the camp – her bond with sexually experienced Verena is genuinely moving. The film also has a touching counterpoint to Paradise: Love, in that we see Melli attempting to phone her mother, just as Teresa (Margarethe Tiesel) tried and failed to contact Melli in the previous film; the subtle but effective result of that is a sense of hope for the pair's relationship in the future.

Seidl plays some intriguing games with the script, frequently placing Melli in tense situations where we worry about what will happen to her, only for those situations to play out in unexpected ways. This is heightened by his unsettling habit of cutting scenes before their natural end (particularly her scenes with Lorenz), so that you have to carefully study her face and behaviour in subsequent scenes to establish whether or not anything bad has happened.

The Great
As with the previous two films, Paradise: Hope is laced with black humour, whether it's in the slightly absurd compositions (a line of plump teenagers somersaulting from left to right across the screen) or a sharply observed moment in the script (e.g. Hannes phoning both her parents separately and giving conflicting reports of how much she is enjoying the camp). The film is also refreshingly non-judgemental, even of the doctor's dubious behaviour, while delivering a subtle but pointed message about the effects of divorce on young teenagers.

Worth seeing?
Impressively directed and superbly acted, Paradise: Hope (Paradies: Hoffnung) is an engaging and frequently darkly funny drama that's well worth seeking out. Recommended.

Film Trailer

Paradise: Hope (Paradies: Hoffnung) (15)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 21:54

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