Paradise: Love (Paradies: Liebe) (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner14/06/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 121 mins

The first film in Ulrich Seidl's Paradise trilogy is a sharply observed and superbly acted drama that's both disturbing and heart-breaking in equal measure.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Ulrich Seidl, Paradise: Love (Paradies: Liebe) is the first film in a trilogy of similarly themed films centring on women in the same family – Paradise: Faith (about a woman going to a missionary) and Paradise: Hope (about a teenager sent to Fat Camp) will follow in July and August, respectively. Margarete Tiesel stars as Teresa, a lonely, middle-aged and overweight Austrian care worker who packs her uncommunicative teenage daughter Meli (Melanie Lenz) off to live with her sister (Maria Hofstatter) – the other two women in the trilogy – and takes an extended sex tourism holiday to a Kenyan beach resort.

Once she arrives, Teresa is quickly shown the ropes by lusty fellow sex tourist Inge (Inge Maux), but it's clear that she is seeking an emotional connection rather than a purely sexual one. After a variety of attempted relationships with readily available beach boys all follow the same pattern (they're nice to her, they hang out, they have sex, they ask her for money to help their sister/father/cousin etc), Teresa becomes increasingly frustrated but, perhaps naively, refuses to give up hope.

The Good
Margarete Tiesel is terrific as Teresa, delivering a powerful, vanity-free performance (film review code for ‘lots of nudity’) that is often difficult to watch; at times you wonder just how aware of the reality of the situation she really is, since she constantly seems to be seeking the triumph of hope over experience. Unfortunately, Seidl's script continually dashes those hopes, and there's a powerful moment when she angrily lashes out at the nicest of her would-be boyfriends (Peter Kazungu as Munga) after she discovers the extent of his deception and you think she's finally wised up, yet she immediately falls for the next guy who's nice to her and the pattern repeats itself.

The film is beautifully shot throughout, with co-cinematographers Ed Lachman and Wolfgang Thaler getting strong use from their authentic locations. In addition, Seidl includes some striking imagery; there's a chilling shot of motionless beach boys silently standing outside the roped-off barrier to the resort that wouldn't be out of place in a horror film.

The Great
Thematically, the film treads similar ground to 2006's Heading South (which starred Charlotte Rampling) and like that film it's both heart-breaking and increasingly disturbing, though there are flashes of dark humour too (not to mention some excellent monkey wrangling).

In addition, Seidl makes some thought-provoking decisions on what to show and what to hold back; for example, there are no actual sex scenes, but there's an extended sequence where Teresa's friends buy her a naked man to cheer her up and they have a competition to see who can give him an erection first.

Worth seeing?
Though frequently difficult to watch, Paradise: Love (Paradies: Liebe) is a well made, emotionally engaging drama with a terrific central performance from Margarete Tiesel. Recommended.

Film Trailer

Paradise: Love (Paradies: Liebe) (18)
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Content updated: 20/10/2017 09:33

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