PARADISE: HOPE (2013)
Running Time: 92 mins. Rating: x Stars/5 Stars
MPAA Rating: NR
Director: Ulrich Seidl
Language: German w/English subtitles
Cast: Melanie Lenz, Verena Lehbauer, Joseph Lorenz, Michael Thomas, Viviane Bartsch, Rainer Luttenberger, Hannes A. Pendl, Johanna Schmid
It’s great to be a teen. It’s miserable to be a teen. Kids between the ages of 13 and 19 have more energy than they will likely have when they get older, but their brains are not fully developed and, as neurologists tell us, people are not capable of making entirely ethical choices until that development comes at about the age of twenty-five.
PARADISE: HOPE, the third in the series directed by Austria’s Ulrich Seidl embraces this information in setting out a deliberately detailed and controlled look at how a bunch of girls and boys at a diet camp get into the mischief for which young people are famous or infamous. At the same time it posits a doctor, the director of the camp, who at age forty fights with his own set of ethical commands lest he let his libido run free and ruin the lives of both him and the child who has fallen in love with him.
HOPE is the third in the trilogy, though you do not necessarily have to see the other two for continuity. In the first film, LOVE, a fifty-year-old goes to Kenya on a sex tour, while in FAITH, the Catholic beliefs of a woman are tested. This time around, in a movie that premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, Melanie (Melanie Lenz), a chubby thirteen-year-old, is sent by her rich, divorced parents to the woods to lose some weight but probably more to get her off their backs. It turns out that a large number of these kids are lacking stable home lives, but the guy who may be the most disturbed is the forty-year-old doctor, Arzt (Joseph Lorenz), who is stalked by Melanie largely because she has discussed sex with some of her fellow campers. “When did you get your first kiss?” “Did you have a guy go down on you?” Nowadays it’s considered shameful to be a virgin, apparently, and Melanie, who has come to the camp as an innocent, is about to test the waters with a guy who is ostensibly experienced.
There is no way that this film can be confused with Hollywood fare. While there is considerable physical action among the girls and boys—pillow fights, games of spin-the-bottle including a bottle’s substituting for cards in strip poker, most of the action is internal. There are long takes when the doctor and Melanie get together. The doc does not necessarily do anything terminally controversial while he is wrestling with his urges, but he does play some interesting games with the lass such as lying on the couch and asking Melanie to place the stethoscope on his chest, above his spleen and near his liver. After Melanie, seemingly given a date-rape drug or simply a lot of alcohol by a young man, is rescued from a bar to which she and a friend have sneaked, the doctor fights his demons which tell him to take as much advantage of the girl as the older boy she meets in the bar.
Most of the real communication between Melanie and the doctor are silent exchanges, Seidl allowing body language to determine the chemistry. You can’t say that the two sizzle. After all, there is a profound mismatch in age and experience. But what comes through is a look at teen’s first love and a mature adult’s grappling with his own overactive hormones. The acting is first rate, particularly by Melanie Lenz, who is a newcomer to the biz.
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