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I saw this months ago and could not decide what to write. Now, before I am about to see the second part of Ulrich Seidl’s “Paradies” trilogy (first one was the breathtaking “Paradies: Liebe”, coming up: “Paradies: Glaube”) I feel compelled to catch up and make a stand. Is “Import / Export” likable? I actually don’t think that any of Seidl’s films are “likable”, they dwell too deeply into the darkest pits of human fallibility, get too close in observing what people consider “normal” behaviour and what makes it sometimes really hard to watch these films is Seidl’s solid conviction (my interpretation, of course) that a scene needs to be played out to the end, because truth cannot be found in an executive summary. Fading out is mercy, and providing mercy is not what he’s making films for.

It is next to impossible to describe the plot of Import / Export, because (again, my interpretation) life has no plot, it has paths to follow, and traps and dead ends, sometimes it comes up with surprises, but usually it just drives you along, and if you happen to be born or bred in the wrong surrounding, there are only a few moments where you can try to steer and navigate the next steps. This is what “happens” to Olga, a Ukrainian girl who ends up as a housemaid and as an online porn performer (I could not decide which of the two was more depressing), and also to Paul, a would-be security guard and action hero and a failed slot machine refiller. They stumble along, move from East to West and back to East, and get disappointed on all sides by all people. I think the only scenes of relaxed and jolly chatter we get when Olga is joining a colleague of hers around their porn show rooms, where they engage in efforts to practice “relevant vocabulary” for the German-speaking online customers.

Why see this? See “Paradies: Liebe”… because it is brilliant and honest and important, and it is also very humane in that the director / author seems to suggest: you know why we are following these people with the camera? Because they are important, because they  are humans. And if you don’t like what they experience, if you detest the world Seidl shows you – why, you get your butt up and start changing it. Seidl leaves no doubt that there’s a couple of things to be fixed.

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