For an introduction to the concept of Thankful for World Cinema please go here.
Paradise: Faith (2012)
With his initial installment in this trilogy, Paradise: Love, Siedl established his template for the precipitous decline away from any hopes of fulfillment that his leading ladies face. In this film, the starting point is a far different one wherein Anna Maria (Very ably played by Maria Hofstätter) seems to have her devoutly religious, stern life well in hand and then things change.
The challenges that this particular tale faces are some of the same the first film does in terms of borderline exploitative narrative. Where it falls is that while the prior film only seemed over-extended; here the film frequently has a vacuous feeling. Certain points are raised and later expounded on, but they frequently over-stay their welcome and scenes last long after they cease to function. Not only is this a pacing issue but a question of narrative necessity.
Furthermore, it’s plainly apparent here that he works off loose outline and through improvisation. There’s nothing wrong with that, except when it shows. In other improvisational works (See any Mike Leigh film or even the prior film) there’s nary a hint of the nature of how the script/narrative is constructed.
Whereas the film does have some undeniably comedic moments, where some may even laugh in spite of themselves; it seems a bit of spite exudes the narrative. There doesn’t seem as detached and analytical an eye to this tale as there is with Love. Instead it seems we’re given a protagonist to pillory whether we want to or not and there’s only so much gratification one can derive from that.
Again, this is not a complaint about protagonist likability. Blue Jasmine is one of the best films of the year. I wouldn’t say I like Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), however, I do understand her and am made to invest in her fate. With Anne Maria, who shares (at least in her own perception) a similarly tragic fate, it’s as if we’re watching her slowly being tied to the stake and burned – and when all is said and done this film has not aroused vengeful glee, pity or disgust but rather ennui.