22 October 2012

Paradise: Love / Paradies: Liebe (Ulrich Seidl, 2012, Austria)

This film is more or less the story of Teresa, a middle aged Austrian single mother who lives a pretty drab life. Her daughter, on the verge of juvenile delinquency, doesn't seem to care about her at all, and there doesn't really seem to be very much in her life that's particularly fulfilling. For her birthday she's going to Kenya with a friend of hers, who has been to Kenya before and knows the ropes down there, at least as far as the ins and outs of holiday love affairs with young African gigolos goes. I feel like Western audiences in general will focus a lot on how these African men seek to exploit or take advantage of the white women. That's the impression I could from the audience I saw it with, anyway. Speaking of that audience, they laughed like children any time anyone was naked or did anything remotely sexual. I felt like I was back in junior high. The movie certainly has moments which are funny, but I also felt like a lot of the racism was being driven by petit bourgeois ideas about race, gender, and body shape, which I confess to have found simple minded and, for lack of a better word, counterrevolutionary.
It's true that the local men are constantly on the make, whether they're trying to sell trinkets on the beach or demanding large sums of money from the European women they sleep with, but clearly the women think it's worth it, because they keep going back. It's kind of a complicated situation. You find yourself feeling overwhelmed as the tourists are mobbed by people selling things and asking for money, but then again you have an upscale resort protected by armed guards and surrounded by extreme poverty in a country with a long history of European colonialism.
The acting in the film is very good, but it's not always easy to watch. Another tale of mutual exploitation, perhaps, though it's hard to say it's mutual when there is such a power differential here.

No comments:

Post a Comment