Release Date: May 3, 2013 (Limited)
Director: Ulrich Seidl
MPAA Rating: Unrated
It’s the world’s oldest profession. It has been the subject, or at the very least a subplot, of numerous films from comedies to dramas. The Last Detail, Midnight Cowboy, Klute, Leaving Las Vegas, Pretty Woman and even Police Academy have looked at or involved a prostitute in some way. It’s an easy and lucrative business that, be it illegal or immoral, surprisingly serves its purpose. There will always be someone who is willing to sell their body for money and there will always be someone there willing to pay for it. Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise: Love takes an unflinching and uninhibited look at the profession.
After dropping her daughter off at a friend’s home, Teresa leaves for a solitary vacation on the beaches of Kenya. She arrives at a luxurious beach resort with a room where monkeys pop up on the balcony, a great beach front and a nice spacious pool. It looks like the ideal relaxation spot for a portly, fifty year old divorcee looking to get away. She isn’t alone as she arrives with other middle aged women who have the same idea in mind. These women aren’t just there to relax, have fun, be pampered or wallow away basking in the sun. That may be a part of it but ultimately it’s about one thing. Sex. They are “Sugar-Mamma.”
Siedl is never judgmental about those who work it or those who buy it. He presents the subject naturally and matter-of-factly. You can see why someone would be willing to pay for it and can understand why. What is most interesting is that Siedl has reversed the roles. Typically when dealing with prostitution it has always been from the male perspective. The women objectify the men and it’s fascinating to see how men and women seem to do it the same way and often with the same level of detachment. It would appear that the film’s sole subject is prostitution but that would be incorrect as Siedl also throws love into the equation and that is where the film truly shines.
Teresa, wonderfully portrayed by Margarethe Tiesel, discovers she is looking for love as opposed to simply sex. After hooking up with one of the local “boy-toys” she finds she can’t go through with it and leaves. You see she is looking for more of a connection. Later she does find someone and it is very sweet; that is until reality sets in and Teresa begins an emotional downward spiral. Obviously “looking for love in all the wrong places” comes to mind. Teresa’s plight is the heart of the film and Tiesel gives her so much heart and depth that it ultimately becomes heartbreaking.
Siedl’s film feels very much like a documentary. It’s as though he just tagged along with these people and picked up whatever he could get with his camera. The performances feel very real, dialogue is natural and the situations and results feel very authentic. He is very frank and honest in his approach as there is plenty of full frontal nudity and some scenes that some people may consider pornographic. However those scenes are neither gratuitous nor titillating. The film features great cinematography by Edward Lachman and Wolfgang Thaler. Siedl has gathered a solid cast whose performances feel like he hired real people off the street. Paradise: Love is the first part in Siedl’s Paradise trilogy. The next two will be Faith and Hope which are to be released later in the year. Originally a seven hour narrative he felt it would be better received as three separate storylines. If Love is any indication the next two are sure to be just as powerful and just as memorable.