Sex tourism and feminism in Ulrich Seidl's Cannes contender Paradise: Love
In competition at the Cannes Film Festival, Austrian director and screenwriter Ulrich Siedl, visits a side of human nature from a rarely-revealed female perspective in Paradise: Love (Paradies: Liebe)
A microcosm of an unnamed resort in Kenya is the setting for 60-year-old Seidl’s eighteenth film.
It revolves around a lonely, middle-aged, Austrian single-mother. She buys a package tour to the beach.
During her stay she thinks she learns that Kenyan men are for the taking, finds out they are on the take, and when she tries to command one who likes her, at the start of her trip, can’t make love for the hell of it. Out of desperation, or for money, she kicks him out.
It’s a keen observation, which comes through also in the dialogues, of a certain type of sex tourism. It’s a startling observation of women, through the four blonde, “exotic”, tourists.
Some critics leaving the hall after the screening talked about a feminist film, as three of the four women, are not so young anymore, and are less than sylph-like.
The Kenyan beach setting, closely guarded by patrolling policemen, is surely appealing to would-be tourists who may see the film.
But if, like Teresa, the main character, they venture beyond the rope that divides the sun-seekers from the local vendors - they might get more than they bargained for.
The rope in Seidl’s Paradies: Liebe (Paradise: Love) is a line that separates two worlds. The word “liebe” - “love” has a different meaning in each.