Director: Ulrich Seidl
Writer: Ulrich Seidl, Veronika Franz
Cast: Maria Hofstätter, Nabil Saleh, René Rupnik, Natalya Baranova
Part of: The Paradise Trilogy (first movie: Paradise: Love)
Anna Maria (Maria Hofstätter) lives alone and divides her time between working and praying with and for her catholic sect. That includes going from to door with the statue of the Virgin Mary and trying to convert people and get them to pray, too. One day when she returns from one of her tours, she finds that her muslim husband Nabil, paralyzed after an accident, has returned and she gets trapped between her belief in what a wife should do and his abuse.
Much like Paradise: Love, Paradise: Faith is pretty hard to watch. It’s interesting, though and has an unusual perspective on faith. And Maria Hofstätter is fantastic.
This movie is certainly provocative. Probably more provocative than Paradise: Love, at least for Austrians. But Seidl has a way to not let the provocation take over the film (as opposed to say Lars von Trier, at least in recent years). So he has a pornographic group sex scene in the park in this one and my biggest beef was not the porn part of it, but that I thought that it was pretty unlikely that Vienna’s parks are full of orgies. (But maybe I’m just endlessly naive. In that case, why am I missing out on all the fun?)
But even more provocative than that is probably Anna Maria’s masochistic and also sexual relationship with Jesus and the fashist vocabulary of her sect. Scary stuff, especially because it is so realistic.
I do think that having Anna Maria’s husband be muslim is a bit problematic. His misogynistic views certainly don’t depend on it, as proved by Anna Maria mostly sharing them, as radical christianity is just a full of it as radical islam. And in Austria, muslims really don’t have a good standing, so there are issues. At the same time, at least the movie acknowledges that there are muslims in Austria, and that there are inter-faith couples, which is quite a rarity in film here.
Maria Hofstätter was amazing in the role. Plus, she and Nabil Saleh really make you feel the abuse. Rarely have I seen a film that was so direct and unflinching in its portrayal of such a relationship. As I said, that doesn’t make the film easy to watch. But it’s what makes it work.