Paradise: Faith Screen 9 articles

Paradise: Faith

2012

Paradise: Faith Poster
  • Throughout, Anna Maria often suggests a fictional construct let lose in the real world, as the naturalistic acting style of the strangers the character meets clashes with Hofstätter's more exaggerated mode of performance, giving Paradise: Faith the feel of a Borat facsimile. This is actually the most interesting element in the film, when it feels the most alive. Otherwise, Seidl drably articulates a contrived script that only sees dualities.

  • Considering the revulsion with which Margarethe Tiesel was treated for sleeping with young Africans in “Love,” it’s a bit much to see a nighttime scene in which Anna Maria encounters an open-air park orgy and scurries home to do penance. Her dismay is filmed as both prurient and foolish, but that’s what happens when you’re in a Seidl movie.

  • A powerful final scene reveals that Seidl knew exactly where he was going. But the journey is stultifyingly static, repeating the same basic information over and over with only negligible variations. There just isn’t two hours’ worth of movie here, especially considering that Seidl has previously addressed some of the same ideas in his religious documentary Jesus, You Know.

  • Obsessively pious wife is as hopelessly crippled as paraplegic husband here, and any ambiguity implicit in the title is pretty much smothered by the broad tone and mockingly symmetrical images. Still worth seeing for several trademark 5-minute-plus scenes of choreographed action, the best of them involving the Lord's Prayer and a man in his underwear.

  • ...Most folks might use this scenario to mount a metaphorical (or literal) showdown between Christianity and Islam, but Seidl couldn’t care less about such things; he’s interested in how faith is used a crutch and a vehicle for transference for spiritual needs and physical desires.

  • There's a sort of Seidl super-cut thing going on, with a return to the dessicated suburbia of Dog Days, the Jesus monologues and a cameo from one of Import/Export's Ukrainian prostitutes, the overall effect being one of diminishing returns rather than concentrated revisitation and prodding from different angles. Seidl thrives when he can locate vileness in many different places, and it's always good when he can get out of Austria...

  • Anna Maria begins as a regressive caricature (she gauges her self-punishment periods with an egg timer), but through the physical humiliations and flagellation and battles with her emasculated husband's awakening Islamic ire, she emerges in four full dimensions, a woman at odds with the world and in love with an illusion. Though we're never allowed a close-up, Hofstätter's performance comes off as an unselfconscious tour de force, painfully real and culturally lost.

  • These scenes enrich the depiction of the central character and save her from becoming a religious freak stereotype, while allowing Seidl to display his mastery of improvisation. One such scene includes Anna Maria visiting the cluttered apartment of an aging bachelor... While the scene provides a brilliant moment of subtle comic relief, the oddball’s faltering delivery of the Lord’s Prayer... presents a delicate and deeply humanist depiction of the moral questions at hand.

  • Faith ends where it began, abjectly, and without the same newfound note of ambivalent self-awareness that nonetheless survives the thwarted romantic fantasies of mother and daughter alike in Love and Hope. This may explain the poor reaction to the film by many critics in this country. Anna Maria makes for too fussy, too exhausting, too inhospitable a film; but the achievement and the point of a work like Seidl’s is that it doesn’t need epiphanies.

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