Saturday, 24 November 2012


Although not quite in possession of the philosophical depth it tries to project, Ulrich Seidl's first film in his Paradise trilogy makes extensive use of its modest set-up, filling each moment with a realism that has a compelling allure. Seidl has a sure grip on the tone and purpose of his film, and he pushes it, perhaps past its welcome, but this perverse tactic may be a part of the plan. At the least, he pushes Love into the territory of entertainment - this is abstract, arthouse, thoroughly uncommercial pitch-black comedy made vaguely accessible. It has the veneer of some leaden, minimalist dirge, and yet a vitality and a sharpness of tone that lifts it, and the cinematography is striking and beautiful. Much of this vitality is due to Margarete Tiesel as Teresa in a brazenly open performance that demands very much from her - she tackles it with an ease and simplicity that attenuates these demands, and a naturalism that is bafflingly exact; she is gifted with the ability to convey spontaneity, which is a rare attribute indeed. Perhaps she, and the other cast members, all also very good, is aided by the improvisational script, which is, thankfully, on the upper end of the scale for such endeavours in terms of quality. Seidl finds himself adrift midway, and the film drags terribly, bereft of its visual ingenuity and pounding out the same rhetoric scene after scene - a rhetoric that we deduced some time ago. Then, as Teresa desperately submits herself to increasingly draining emotional experiences, Seidl's interest is seemingly reignited; this film is at its best when it is offered something new with which to distract us, as Seidl's point is made early and repeatedly. But distract it does - if Seidl is no more than a provocateur, he is an immensely skilled one, and this is his most soulful provocation yet.