The first chapter of an acerb trilogy, Paradise: Love proves to be quite an ironical title as the film focuses on doomed relationships. Following the adventures of a group of Austrian women vacationing in Kenya, this movie explores one again the business of sex, which was already the theme of director Ulrich Seidl’s previous entry Import / Export.
The first thing that we will notice here is that Mr. Seidl’s sense for subversion gets dissolved in recurring attacks, his propensity to caricature his contemporaries always turning into a shooting gallery.
He portraits a world divided in two classes, the powerful and the weak, the latter being prompt to abdicate their dignity for a few bucks. Big, old, wrinkled or stunningly beautiful, the bodies traded here occupy the entire space of the film.
To spice up her vacation in Africa, a mature mother get persuaded to buy sexual favors from attractive indigenous. Seduced by a smooth talker, she will keep spending her money until their relationship ends abruptly.
While her honest search of love doesn’t make us totally despise her character, Mr. Seidl uses her to criticize racist behaviors with quite a sadistic delectation. Lying on their lounge chairs, these tourists look like they are dying, being only animated by their final sexual impulses. Sex has a price, even if it hides genuine feelings and the mother will soon discover that you can’t buy love – quite a weak moral lesson for a film that could have been despicable, would it have just limited itself to a naïve portrait of its characters.
For yet another take on sex tourism, the filmmaker doesn’t bring any originality with a strong direction; quite the contrary. The opening sequence is gratuitous (a group of handicapped people in bumper cars), giving the project a detestable taste. Mr. Seidl keeps the provocations coming, turning Paradise: Love quickly into a pathetic piece. Thinking that they have power, those women are however pitiful as emphasized by the central character’s failed relationship and her rebound with a bartender she had humiliated earlier. Once in bed, this man however turns down the body that is getting offered to him, out of disgust but also in a final burst of dignity.
This cruel conclusion emphasizes the idea that Mr. Seidl has little empathy for his characters. As a result, his film isn’t worth much more than the countless documentaries and news stories about those gullible women looking for love in exotic lands and inevitably ending up lonely and disillusioned.
Director: Ulrich Seidl – Actors: Margarete Tiesel Peter Kazungu – Running Time: 2:10 – Year: 2012 – Country: Austria