Cannes: "Paradies: Liebe," Loveless and Charming

Posted 3:11 AM May 19th, 2012 by popcorn
Paradies: Liebe

Paradies: Liebe is a carefree and lightly humorous film filled with politically incorrect and discriminatory comments and unfiltered nudity not suited for many movie markets, and may not fly with many rights groups in the United States. The movie deals with the social and economic divides between the Europeans and the Kenyans through the sexual experiences of a 50 year old lonely and divorced woman, Teresa, who takes us through the process of being exploited to becoming the exploiter.

The opening scene to the movie shows a sullen 50 year old woman standing outside on the sidelines staring blankly and nonchalantly at a group of disabled students. Once she arrives in Kenyan on vacation, the woman on the sidelines becomes the woman in the center of the field. This theme of crossing over divides, shown through many scenes using horizontal and vertical visuals, are evident throughout the film.

The vertical divides -- most scenes shot in what appears to be ¾ to ¼ framing ratios -- are more prominent as the vacationers arrive in Kenya. This is the first film I have seen from this director and uncertain as to whether the lines are a trademark of his filmmaking, or if it is intentional to show the separation of rich and poor and Europeans versus Kenyans. This theme is shown in shots of the vacationers sunbathing on the beach, where there is a rope used as barrier separating the Europeans from the Kenyans. The swimming pool is often shot at an angle where three-fourths of the pool is shown on the left and the other third is the vacationers sunbathing along the curved edge of the pool as the hotel workers, Kenyans, walk along the divides. Palm trees are shot vertically separating the security guard who watches the premises of the hotel. As we enter into the Kenyan’s homes, we see two tone walls separated by a horizontal line. I don’t know if this is intentionally done to continue the divide between the Europeans from the Kenyans even inside their own homes, or if all homes and businesses in Kenya have two different colors inside.

Teresa is at first hesitant and reluctant to be seduced by these young Kenyan men, holding on to the theory that sex should be accompanied by love instead of only fulfilling a physical need. At the same time that Teresa harangues the Kenyans trying to sell her things and adamantly insisted on being alone, she easily gives in to being seduced and “romanced’ by the young Kenyan men showing her vulnerability and loneliness, probably left by her ex-boyfriend/ex-husband and teenage daughter who pays her little to no attention, not even on her birthday.

She yields to a young Kenyan, Munga, whom she takes under her wings and trains him to make love with passion and sensitivity instead of rough physical love. She eventually falls into their sob story traps, seeking money to help a sick baby, a dying father, a poor cousin, and once she does her “sugar mama” due diligence Munga is nowhere to be found.

Only then does it hit her that she has been exploited for money through sex. The rest of the movie takes us to the other side, where we see Teresa exploiting the men for sex, throwing out every notion of love and romance and turning into every other domineering, old, fat and somewhat undesirable to European or Western standards, who wields their economic power while seeking nonjudgmental and carefree sex.

We see evidence of how carefree and unguarded these women become through the naked exhibition of their sagging breasts and pancake rolls of stomach fat on display, although natural body hair and hygiene were still maintained. There are scenes where Teresa’s carefree body is displayed in naked positions on Munga’s bed resembling Greek statues of supple women, demonstrating wealth, health and happiness.

The exploitation continues as the European women pays to transform these Kenyan men into animals, performing circus acts or tricks using their naked and uninhibited bodies for their entertainment. As this happens, we lose sight of who really is the victim and what is morally right -- the European women manipulated by the Kenyans for their money or the Kenyans being dominated by the European women to become degrading sex toys for their entertainment and pleasure.

In the end, Paradies: Liebe, the first of three movies that follows Teresa and her family and friends as they deal with various topics in life; the second and third are about Faith and Hope; is an antithesis of love in paradise. It is an often times awkward and uncomfortable yet funny film about loneliness and the consequences of achieving the wrong ends (exploitation and dominance) to the means (conquering loneliness and seeking freedom and happiness) than about love or paradise.

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