An Austrian director of the microscope-slide school, Ulrich Seidl pins his characters like butterflies in neat geometric compositions, where they live their lives unaware of the terrible things that will inevitably befall them. But in Paradise: Hope, the last part of a trilogy initially conceived as an intertwined triptych, his focus goes ever so slightly soft as he concentrates on the relationship between teenage Melanie (Melanie Lenz) and the fat-camp doctor (Joseph Lorenz) on whom she develops what starts as an uneasy crush.
Viewers of previous installments Love and Faith will know more of Melanie’s backstory, but it’s not essential to understand Seidl’s rigorous and yet, at least for him, sentimental film. Though Melanie and the doctor’s rapport grows increasingly squirm-inducing, he doesn’t leer at or condemn them. Some will inevitably condemn Seidl for being soft on pedophiles (a charge not likely to disturb him in the slightest), but clearly there’s another shoe waiting to drop, and there’s room between the sole and the ground for a few fleeting moments of humanity.
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