Teresa, a fifty-year-old Austrian mother, travels to the paradise of the beaches of Kenya, seeking out love from African boys. But she must confront the hard truth that on the beaches of Ken... Read allTeresa, a fifty-year-old Austrian mother, travels to the paradise of the beaches of Kenya, seeking out love from African boys. But she must confront the hard truth that on the beaches of Kenya, love is a business.Teresa, a fifty-year-old Austrian mother, travels to the paradise of the beaches of Kenya, seeking out love from African boys. But she must confront the hard truth that on the beaches of Kenya, love is a business.
Herzog's candid remark, conflated into a handy, overused critique isn't worth repeating here.
Loneliness, exploitation, the prison room of cultural and self- repression are themes in this Austrian drama. Cruelly soaked in the warm currents of colonial past; Ulrich Seidl meticulously, sincerely, unapologetically paints the portrait of Teresa (Margarete Tiesel) — a 50 year old woman living in Vienna, upper middle-class, divorced mother of a teenager. Most of the film depicts events that gradually unfold during her lone vacation on the shores of Kenya.
Sex tourism is probably only part of the canvas, though. For in the process, it scratches and destroys the heteronormative lenses with which we understand taboos. Written by Seidl and Veronika Franz; Paradise: Love is a film so explicitly honest to the point of being awkward; that most viewers, embarrassed for Teresa, will look away during moments of vulnerability and self-revelation. The camera of cinematographers Edward Lachman and Wolfgang Thaler looks on unflinchingly during a scabrous encounter with her first companion: does he find her attractive? Isn't she too old for him? Why would he want to make love to her — a beached whale with sagging upper glands, belly full of fat, soggy exterior flawed with celluloid? But most pressingly, having considered the social realist tradition of framing with minimum distortion, why would anyone wince and look away when confronted with mirrors reflecting the consequence of corporeality?
This seventeenth feature by the controversial auteur has been slammed, shamed and shunned for being brazen in its visual audacity. Suggestions that Seidl manipulates viewers with exploitative logic are also suspect in affecting the film's overall reception. Yet, it would be prudent to withhold from believing such. In Paradise: Love — seekers, movers, malcontent inhabitants are drenched in the rich, luxurious texture of a sunlit paradise. The narrative path however; doesn't build up to sex, love or Maslowian truth as its payoff; lesser films would.
I have no doubt this film is a difficult watch because Ulrich Seidl forces Teresa (and us) to acknowledge the naive illusions of paradisaical beauty. But in rhythmic throes that oscillate between anguish, ecstasy and depravity — the African rendition of La Paloma; perhaps a bit saddened by its contrast with the ugly, ordinary trading off between flesh and soul — Seidl derides the remarkable irony of what it means to be human. The dewy-eyed bourgeois privilege suffers. I suppose this is the real reason why Paradise: Love can seem so offensive and unglamorous.
- Jun 27, 2013