TIFF 2012: ‘Paradise: Love’ spirals through self-image; cultural hierarchy

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Paradise: Love
Written by Ulrich Seidl & Veronika Franz
Directed by Ulrich Seidl
Austria/Germany/France, 2012The commencement of an apparent trilogy following women in search of varying forms of satisfaction they are unable to achieve within the confines of day-to-day life, Paradise: Loveskirts us off to a Kenyan resort with ready promises of lavish luxury and rare, exotic sex. What is found despite desperate persistence, however, is a series of mounting disappointments only reinforcing the personal issues at our protagonist’s core.Though several shots throughout seem meticulously arranged – and all the more classically lovely for it – co-writer/director Ulrich Seidl’s often widely composed exhibition of his central tourist allows her longing for attention and more quietly developed hang-ups with body image to command the piece amongst complimentarily competing themes of objectification, cultural hierarchy and mutual exploitation. The carefully set-back camera watches mature lead actress Margarete Tiesel’s sexuality naturally blossom as her character allows the illusion of acceptance to lead her down a repetitious yet progressively dark path. Tiesel is supported by a superb ensemble of suitors and gal-pals who, to their great credit, generate a highly authentic aura about the contrarily fictional material.

To be sure, few are likely to label Paradise: Love as thematically simplistic. Audience sympathies may sway depending on fluxes in immediate significance of the shared foci as the picture progresses, yet each ever-present aspect becomes ambiguously rounded through dynamic shifts in repeated scenarios. One may be the privileged vacationer on a lonely quest for what may be considered “love” while the other exists in a perpetually and thoroughly demeaned lifestyle dictated by poverty and local tourism, but each side is simultaneously victim and culprit of dehumanizing solicitation and advantage-taking.

This visually assured and generally excellent first installment in Seidl’s proposed trilogy sets its stage with patient intricacy while slowly, unforgivingly illustrating a tale that threatens to linger long with those open to its numerous facets. The indelible mark has been made; now comes the wait for Paradise: Faith.

– Tom Stoup

Learn more about Paradise: Love at TIFF 2012 here and the Toronto International Film Festival here.

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