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Mar 5, 2014‘Paradise: Hope’ is the last installment in Ulrich Seidl’s ‘Paradise’ trilogy and for one and a half hours it follows the life of Melanie, a 13 year old, and her battle with obesity in a weight loss camp.
Surrounded by many other children with the same condition, Melanie participates in daily physical challenges to relinquish the unwanted kilograms as well as learning about healthy nutritional tips. Melanie is a budding woman, who finds herself at the crucial age of curiosity about life’s intricacies and one way to combat the weight loss boredom is by beginning to explore the new horizons that lay ahead of her.
A brief dialogue with her roommate about the opposite gender, sex and love represents the first clue that Melanie is undergoing a changing process from childhood to adulthood. And it is this transformation that Ulrich Seidl explores in detail with the help of Melanie’s curiosities, desires and the naivety of her young age.
Eventually, the 13 year old falls in love with the diet camp doctor - a svelte gentleman with silver hair and some 40 years her senior. Driven by her pursuits to experience adulthood, Melanie begins to pay daily visits to the medical cabinet in the hope that the doctor will eventually respond to her seductive behaviour. Despite his weakness and paedophilic tendencies, the doctor resists her and in this way Melanie gets to sample the first taste of adulthood: deception.
Of course, our trustfulness will exhort us to believe that what the 13 year old protagonist is experiencing is indeed love but at best, given her very tender age, is nothing but infatuation fuelled by an aggressive amalgam of new sentiments that she is trying to make sense of.
Melanie’s first encounter with life’s game is not strong enough to impede her from continuing with her seductive quest in the ‘hope’ that after all, life is what it appears to be. But the more she tries to seduce the doctor, the sharper the rejections become and this circumstance makes room for an avalanche of self-searching, self-awareness, sadness and more deception at the thought that she is unsuccessful in her attempts thanks to her extra pounds.
In his philosophical vision on life, Seidl explores the naivety and innocence of the young and the risks and dangers they are exposing themselves to without any shred of anticipation or knowledge. Seidl is using the ‘hope’, desires, curiosities and the positive outlook on life of the protagonist in order to strongly underline the status of prey that the young and innocent are exposed to.
When the level of disillusionment finally penetrated Melanie’s confidence in life, she decided to drown her sorrows in alcohol during a night out in town. There, completely wasted, she is lucky not to become the victim of two young male predators on a night out in search of easy prey.
There is no coincidence between Seidl’s choice of a budding woman as the main character and the concept of ‘hope’ that this movie often relates to. Through Melanie’s struggles and optical changes on life, the director is indirectly pointing towards the fact that life is a losing game, and that disillusionment and deception are an integral part of what life has to offer. But from a philosophical point of view, ‘Paradise: Hope’ draws awareness towards society’s traps, prey-predator situations and the fact that no one is exempt from suffering.
On this note, the young and inexperienced Melanie is keen to learn about life’s grandeur and instead, all she finds are dangers, risks, traps and a strong taste of loss. Only, her young age and the subsequent positive impulses that stem from ‘hope’ are strong enough to undermine her first negative encounter with life’s gifts.… Expand
When Melanie falls under the spell of a silver-haired pedophile as tall and trim as a Marine (Joseph Lorenz), the film gets set on its rocky path to a conclusion that fulfills the film's title and rounds out the "Paradise" series quite beautifully — if you're not afraid to look.