Ulrich Seidl sits down with Ariel Esteban Cayer to discuss PARADISE: HOPE.

Director Ulrich Seidl

Over the past year, Ulrich Seidl’s PARADISE trilogy has taken the festival world by storm. Its final installment, which premiered last Friday at the Berlinale, expectedly offered another deeply uncomfortable, yet beautifully composed exploration of decadence, bodies and lust. PARADISE: HOPE, Seidl’s own version of LOLITA, closes the trilogy with the story of overweight, pre-pubescent Melanie, who, sent to an absurd diet camp, falls in love with the camp physician, 40 years her senior.

When asked about the controversial and cynical gaze that his films throw on the world, Seidl remained elusive: “This vision comes from inside me; this vision of the world is my own vision – a very personal vision... It is a question of what I want to show.” He specified: “I am not concerned with the audience. My concern is with how I can get the audience to feel [the images]”.

Seidl’s cinema walks a fine line between the exploitative and the representative, the affectionate and the judgemental. What allows him such audacity of filmmaking? “I try to approach it in such a way where I have the greatest freedom possible: in the way I make the film and what I make the film about…You renounce big budgets, you work with small budgets and the smallest possible crews. The other thing is that I work with reality. I take reality and make an artificial image of it”.

PARADISE: HOPE is strikingly less mean-spirited than his previous films. In keeping with this year’s Berlinale Talent Campus theme, I took the opportunity to ask about his views on the possibility of cinema as pure entertainment. He offered: “All my films deal with aspects of reality that are very unpleasant for audiences, that can upset, that might make them want to look away. For that reason, humour is very important, so that audiences are able to laugh. But at the same time, the audience is always aware – or at least, I hope they are aware – that in my films, the laughter, at some point, might stay stuck in their throat.”