Introducing an interview with Ulrich Seidl for the Hollywood Reporter (via Movie City News), Alexandra Zawia notes that when Paradise: Faith, the second film in a trilogy following Paradise: Love, premiered in Competition in Venice on Friday, it kicked up an “uproar in the Italian media…. Austrian actress Maria Hofstätter plays obsessively devoted Catholic Anna-Maria who is unhappily married to a handicapped Muslim and, at one point, masturbates using a cross. Especially this scene caused Italian media to describe the film as ‘blasphemous,’ but also ‘intelligently ironic,’ ‘merciless,’ and ‘dark humored.'” Zawia talks with Seidl “about his view on the perversion of faith, religious fundamentalists, and the possibility of the third part of the trilogy to enter Berlin competition next year.”
At the moment, I can find only one trailer, unsubtitled, and littered with pop-ups at that, but still, it’ll serve as a first impression. And for those who do speak German, here‘s a clip from the press conference as well.
To the reviews, beginning with THR‘s David Rooney: “Put together a subversive filmmaker like Ulrich Seidl with the subject of religious fanaticism and you’re bound to get something provocative. But Paradise: Faith, the second part of the Austrian director’s trilogy about three women from the same family on different quests, is possibly more interesting to think about and discuss afterwards than to sit through. Depending how you look at it, there’s a pitch-black comedy buried in here or a redeeming shred of empathy at the tail end of two grueling hours. Either way, it’s strictly for the faithful.”
But the Playlist‘s Oliver Lyttelton finds that, “as button-pushing as the film is, it also proved, to us at least, extremely funny. The set up—Catholic woman and her disabled Muslim husband living together!—could almost be a twisted sitcom pitch, and Seidl wrings plenty of laughs out of the escalating conflict between Annamaria and Nabil [Nabil Saleh, “excellent” in his first screen role]; she flings holy water on him when he sleeps, he takes down all the crosses in the house with his walking stick. We’ll admit that you probably have to be there—Seidl’s take-your-time pacing is what sells many of these moments, most notably Annamaria’s attempt to get an elderly man to pray with her in the room in which his mother died. Again, you sort of had to be there.”
In Variety, Leslie Felperin notes that Faith “fictionalizes themes explored earlier in [Seidl’s] career, particularly in his 2003 docu Jesus, You Know, an affectionate-acidic portrait of Catholics at prayer…. Nevertheless, even if the artistic approach—the use of non-pro thesps, the improvised dialogue, and the stylized, static framing—is squarely in Seidl’s wheelhouse, Christof Schertenleib’s editing creates a stronger sense of structure and parallelism than usual…. Some will see only mean-spirited mockery of the faithful, especially in the aforementioned masturbation scene, where others will sense honest empathy for the devout. This is Seidl at his slipperiest.”
Hofstätter, “whose association with Seidl dates back ten years, completely melts into the role, providing the backbone for the entire piece,” writes Dan Fainaru in Screen, adding that “just like the perverted image of Love in the first chapter of this trilogy, Faith offers much deeper and more complex aspects that Seidl’s satire doesn’t even begin to explore here.”
“You’ll wince, laugh and be shocked, sometimes all at once,” writes Adam Woodward at Little White Lies, “but Faith is so audaciously tongue-in-cheek it’s unlikely you’ll ever be offended.”
At Cineuropa, Domenico La Porta predicts that Faith will be “one of the most provocative, but also one of the most cynically funny of this competition,” and interviews Seidl, who insists, “I didn’t want to make a grotesque or funny film, and I was very surprised to learn that the screening was punctuated with laughter and even applause…. I do however like to blur the lines between drama and comedy. Perhaps I do it unconsciously.”
Update, 9/9: Strand Releasing has acquired all US rights to the full Paradise trilogy, reports indieWIRE.
Update, 9/13: Anna Tatarska interviews Seidl for Slant.