The Field Guide to Evil collects eight different segments from eight different countries that all build from a local legend. As usual with anthology films, Field Guide to Evil is a mixed bag of beans. There are some very good segments, but also some that didn’t really work for me. But I would say, it’s worth seeing because the good parts are really very good.
A private game reserve in Namibia run by a German couple. They have mostly guests from the German-speaking part of Europe who come to Africa to hunt and collect trophies. Going on Safari in the original sense: armed with guns and eager to kill.
Safari is not Seidl’s best documentary, but it is a provocative and very revealing look at colonial structures that are alive and well today without so much as the slightest veneer of post-colonialism. Unfortunately, by centering the experiences the white people have and by almost entirely excluding black people from his documentary, Seidl does reinforce the very same structures he so pointedly lays open.
Lukas (Lukas Schwarz) and Elias (Elias Schwarz) spend their summer playing in and around the rather lonely country house at which their mother (Susanne Wuest) is recuperating from cosmetic surgery. But their initially idyllic summer is disrupted when the twins start to doubt that their mother is actually their mother. It seems that someone or something else came back from that surgery.
A few months ago I saw a testscreening of the still unfinished film and was less than convinced by it. It seemed decent enough, but nothing to write home about. The finished product, though, is another beast entirely. It is a tense, gripping and absolutely fantastic piece of cinema.
Ulrich Seidl looks into the basements of Austrians and with that into their subconscious and the parts of themselves they like to bury. Far from only finding what you’d expect, he uncovers hidden desires and passions – from collections to baby dolls, shooting ranges to BDSM dungeons. And since we’re talking about Austria, there is also a basement devoted to everything Nazi.
Im Keller is a highly stylized documentary that is sad and weird and funny and uncomfortable in turn. It is an impressive display that I’ll surely remember for quite some time.
While Melanie’s mother is on holiday in Kenya, 13-year-old Melanie (Melanie Lenz) is at a diet camp. Between the sadistic sport sessions and the weirdly military set-up of the entire thing, Melanie finds new friends, earnest teenager sex-talk, alcohol and cigarettes. But she also falls in love with the camp doctor (Joseph Lorenz), 40 years her senior, who shows her some kindness.
Paradies: Hoffnung is probably the most positive of the Paradise movies. That is not to say that it’s a lighthearted comedy, but, as the title promises, at least there’s some hope that not everything necessarily has to be completely awful. That is not much but it is nice that Seidl finishes his trilogy on that note.
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.
Teresa (Margarete Tiesel) leaves her teenaged daughter Melanie (Melanie Lenz) with her friend (Maria Hofstätter) and goes on holiday to Kenya with her friend Inge (Inge Maux). Part of her motivation to go is to find herself a young Kenyan for sex, love and connection. Initially hesitant, she soon does find a guy – Gabriel (Gabriel Mwarua). And then another. But being a Sugar Mama isn’t actually what she’s looking for.
Ugh. Paradies: Liebe is a really good film – which makes it extremely hard to watch. (Which is exactly what you should expect from an Ulrich Seidl movie.) Difficult subject matter, excellent cast and set in scene.