Paradise: Love is one of those movies that immediately brings to mind a whole slew of other stuff as you’re watching it, yet it’s entirely unique. This is only my second Ulrich Seidl, but I’ll be watching a lot more. Import/Export is also fantastic.
Seidl’s Kenyan-Austrian narrative is funny, uncomfortable, and tragic at once. Seidl isn’t too far from Fassbinder in some ways, and this film also made me think of Moodyson and The Band’s Visit by Eran Kolirin (but only because of some of the framing). Those familiar with Cantet’s work will immediately think of the narrative connection where Teresa (Margarete Tiesel) a middle-aged Austrian women, travels to Kenya to ostensibly find a lover.
Seidl oscillates fluidly between stark, static wides and a grimy handheld. Those wides usually tend to be at the resort town, and are really pretty playful and absurd. Here’s one of my favorites. Seidl cuts from a different scene right to this WS. Several Kenyan men, placed throughout the frame, stare at something:
It’s odd. The seeming attraction (the water) is at their back. They’re pretty expressionless, and there’s no sound to indicate that anything worth watching is going on.
The cut reveals it:
The proximity here, which felt so far away (the point, I think) in the first shot, is the punchline.
Seidl likes this really frontal framing-
-where the main character is in the foreground and side characters nearly blend in with the background. See in that above image how the bartender basically matches the zebra patterns next to him? He blends in, Teresa doesn’t. Read: he belongs, she’s an outsider.
Here’s some of that grit I was talking about. As Teresa and her newfound lover Munga (Peter Kazungu) walk about Kenya at night, the camera follows them from behind. The low light levels make the image really grainy, and the handheld feels the footsteps. It’s a long way from the resort, I think Seidl is saying:
Other images that I really liked:
There’s great color and texture in both of these. That blue paint and the peeling wall, the blue paint, blue fan, and blue mosquito net in the second image. They just feel so worn in.
Here’s a great sequence that demonstrates Seidl’s resort technique further. Again preferring center-framed-images, he starts with this shot of the band:
We get a cut to Teresa and her friend:
Put these two images above together and what do you get? Teresa and companion are alone (besides the bartender) watching this band perform for them.
The wide-shot, like the first example in this post, reveals the rest of the space and the distance between protagonists and band. I like this a lot. Like the other image: Teresa isn’t as close to Kenya as she thinks. She’s an outsider. She’s separate. All said through these shots (Seidl really seems to work in 90 degree angles in his formalist sections):
I really like the final image of the scene mostly because of the guy far frame right, who is completely asleep. If this were another film he’d be more prominent in the frame to push that joke along, but here he’s easily missed. I also love the distance between the performers and audience (something else that is hidden in the image directly above). It’s an awkward space and the frame that cuts off some of their bodies on the right really emphasizes that.