PROD Ulrich Seidl
SCR Ulrich Seidl, Veronika Franz
CAM Edward Lachman, Wolfgang Thaler
ED Christof Schertenleib
PROD DES Andreas Donhauser, Renate Martin
PROD CO Ulrich Seidl Film Produktion / Tatfilm / Société Parisienne de Production
Obese 13-year-old Melanie (Melanie Lenz) is sent off to the countryside to spend the summer at a rigorous diet camp to get whipped into shape. She and her roommates aren’t so interested in weight loss, and pretty quickly they’re sneaking snacks in their dormitory (only one of their mischievous activities) in between the regimented exercises and nutrition lessons. Meanwhile, Melanie develops an unlikely (quasi-) romantic relationship with the resident doctor, who is more than 50 years old. What ensues doesn’t make for the uneasy viewing one might expect, as Austrian provocateur Ulrich Seidl—here at his most restrained—manages to tread some tricky territory in portraying this odd tale of (misplaced) first love with atypical care. The usual Siedl touch is here, mind you, with its trademark dioramic visual style, and a fair share of irony and offbeat humour, but Hope is less a story about morally repugnant goings-on than it is an empathetic look at a young teenager’s adolescent clumsiness and its accompanying vulnerability. The young cast here is really something, with nary a false note among them, Lenz being the quiet revelation at the film’s centre.
This conclusion to the Paradise trilogy (the first two installments being “Love” and “Faith”), the most human and compassionate of the three, may well signal a softer, though no less biting, chapter in Seidl’s accomplished career.