Ulrich Seidl in person for a post-screening conversation about his Paradise trilogy!
In this unsentimental and unconventional coming of age narrative, Seidl concludes his trilogy by circling back to the realm of sexuality with the story of Teresa’s overweight 13-year-old daughter Melanie (Melanie Lenz), who has been shipped off to a weight-loss camp in the countryside while her mother vacations in Kenya. Here, practically incarcerated alongside some 20 other teens, Melanie bonds with the other girls in her dorm room and soon develops a desperately romantic and unlikely crush on the facility’s middle-aged doctor (Joseph Lorenz)—who gradually begins to reciprocate. If the protagonist’s physical experience is one of sexual gratification in Paradise: Love and mortification in Paradise: Faith, here it’s one of discipline and regimentation as the camp’s staff put the teens through a relentless regimen of exercise that’s just short of authoritarian in character.
Olaf Möller writes in the May/June issue of Film Comment: “Paradise: Hope feels like a fairy-tale—Melanie is the princess, the gym instructor an ogre, the diet consultant an evil witch, and the doctor Prince Charming who in the film's most stunning scene transforms into a werewolf. The adults indulge in stunning feats of over-acting, while the teenagers just let it rip. The scenes between the youngsters alone, shooting the shit, playing Truth or Dare, making contact with the pleasures and vices of adulthood are the film’s source of energy, true to the feeling of adolescence: One foot in a childhood world of wonder, the other already set aground in adulthood—a moment heavy with contradictions, at once dizzying and disturbing. While Melanie, just like her mom Teresa and her aunt Anna Maria doesn’t ends up being loved in the way she wanted, things don't look as altogether bleak.”