Anna is a middle-aged Austrian woman who lives alone in Vienna. While she has a day job at the hospital, her main job is being a vessel for Jesus, who she loves unconditionally. She is part of a small but dedicated group of ultra-religious Catholics who are intent on bringing god back to the forefront in Austria. Although her faith is very strong, it becomes challenged when her crippled Muslim husband returns home, seeking her love which she has already devoted to God. Ulrich Seidl's films are truly one of a kind and with his latest, Paradise: Faith, he sets his sights on presenting an intimate look at a woman who will do anything for her faith. While many had led me to believe that Seidl's recent film was a damnation of faith, I didn't really see it that way, with the film merely offering a portrait of a devout catholic. Thematically the film is rather reductive, with countless scenes capturing the extreme and often times hysterical means Anna goes through to push her faith on everyone around her. From Anna going door to door attempting to spread the word of god to her neighbors, to how she methodically self-mutilates herself to resist the temptations of the flesh, the film's thematic presentation is clear but simple. While the film is certainly a serious subject matter the film is full of dark comedy, with the film intentionally or not capturing some of the absurdities of Anna's lifestyle. Another thing that I found interesting about Paradise: Faith is how much of the film was improvised, with some of the characters being real people and not actors at all. While filmmakers like Cassavetes were known for their improvisation what makes Improvisation so interesting in this film is how focused and planned out Paradise: Faith is from a visual standpoint. Devoid of almost anything but static photography, Paradise: Faith is meticulously detailed, full of rich compositions that in themselves capture the sensibilities of the story. Ulrich Seidl's Paradise: Faith is definitely not a film for most audiences, but if willing, it effectively transports the viewer into Anna's world giving a intimate and resonant portrait of a woman caught between faith and her human desires.
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