PROD Ulrich Seidl
SCR Ulrich Seidl, Veronika Franz
CAM Wolfgang Thaler, Ed Lachman
ED Christof Schertenleib
PROD CO Ulrich Seidl Film Produktion / Tat Film / Parisienne de Production
The first installment in Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise trilogy, Paradise: Love focuses on Teresa (the very game Margarethe Tiesl), a plump middle-aged Austrian vacationing on a “comfort safari” to Kenya, a land of zebra-costumed troubadours, wild monkeys, and “beach boys.” This is no mere seaside vacation: Seidl’s clash of cultures creates a fertile dramatic and thematic object, as Teresa is, at the same time, a signifier of the historic oppressor (in a national sense, as a white colonizer) and the oppressed (in the universal sense, as a woman). Seidl’s lead starts off looking for a “boyfriend experience,” and in her dealings with the Kenyan beach boys, she at first attempts to re-colonize them sexually, hilariously attempting to instruct them in how to make love her way, tender and soft, not pawing like an animal.
The natives, however, are restless, and Seidl’s naïve heroine repeatedly wills herself to see her situation as anything but a pure economic exchange: what she’s involved in is prostitution, clear and simple, a relationship Seidl clarifies with each man’s increasing financial demands. Seidl’s most straightforward comedy makes sublime use of the foreign tourist’s quandary that, in the Third World, the locals are simply out to exploit the visitors, who they see as cash cows, figuratively and literally. They are truly the big-game hunters. Teresa’s journey is her struggle to overcome denial, with her sexual relations assuming a repetitive, therapeutic quality; the tragedy in this is that even once she becomes most aware of her situation, her lover can’t deliver. Hakuna matata.