Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise trilogy is already towards the front of my favorite films of 2013. Paradise: Faith is pretty ambitious. There are fewer characters than in Love and Hope (really, only two), and the bulk of the narrative takes place in one small apartment. That latter concern is really interesting for Seidl, who likes his wide shots quite a bit. Because of the real location (it sure doesn’t look like a set to me), the director uses more medium wides than in the other installments of the trilogy, and has several instances where characters approach the scene from off-screen and behind the lens, momentarily placing them quite close to the camera. It’s definitely not an intimate film, but is more one than the other, more distant, detached films.
This is the middle film in the trilogy. Anna Maria (Maria Hofstatter), last seen in Love taking care of Teresa’s (Margarete Tiesel) daughter Melanie (Melanie Lenz) is a beyond-devout Christian woman whose Muslim husband Nabil (Nabil Saleh) abruptly comes home.
Like other Seidl films, the narrative slowly builds through long takes to a drawn out crescendo, which here takes two forms: Anna Maria’s interaction with a drunken immigrant whom she attempts to convert (a scene at once scary and funny) and a violent episode between Anna Maria and Nabil.
One of Seidl’s many strengths is his location scouting. I’m a sucker for some good wallpaper in an interior and this film has it in spades.
Check out these two medium wide shots. It’s not just that patterned wallpaper, it’s also Seidl’s emphasis on negative space that I like here. I’d be curious to see how much he storyboards in order to get mirror images throughout the film. This is one of many. Anna Maria looks to her icon and source of inspiration (ethereal), while Nabil looks to his own (secular). I love little details like the half-made bed in the second image:
I have this image here because it’s pretty. It’s also a counter example to the two images above in that it features pretty central framing:
This image is great. I love how Anna Maria’s dress blends in nicely with the couch, and Nabil’s outfit reflects the blue of the painting overhead. This is also representative of Seidl’s sensibility. The framing is almost entirely symmetrical, though small elements (in this case, the little dials on the wall on the right, just slightly throw it off:
Here’s a later shot in the same location. The framing is slightly different. It looks like the angle of the camera has changes – even though the painting is still at the top of the frame, the lamps are as well. I’m thinking that Seidl raised the camera and tilted down slightly. It’s also a little wider. My favorite part of the shot, however, is how Anna Maria again very nearly blends in with the blanket on top of Nabil. Her black hair is all that really separates her. It’s probably different in a moving image, but when this shot came on-screen it took me a moment to determine whether she was lying on top of him, or kneeling at his side:
More static wide-shots, this time as Anna Maria continues her self-inflicted penance. She crawls around the house-
-that’s later reflected by Nabil, who, after Anna Maria takes his wheelchair away, is forced to crawl around the house. Of course unlike his wife, this isn’t his own choice. It’s a nice mirror image:
Anna Maria’s job is only shown once, at the beginning of the film. It’s very sterile. Though presented similarly in wide, static shots, it has an entirely different feel. However, also worth noting, is that she again blends in with her surroundings: