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Final part of the “Paradies” Trilogy, following “Paradies: Liebe” (Love) and “Paradies: Glaube” (Faith), this is an uplifting bit of Austrian RomCom, following in the footsteps of the Peter Alexander and Hans Moser lakeside musical comedies…. Well… there is some music… the chorus of the obese kids singing “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your fat! … Clap! Clap!” It is the sound of Ulrich Seidl making Austria (but not only) look into the mirror, slapping it in the face and forcing it to look longer, to take in all the ugly details of the image.

Imagine where in the world you would least like to spend your summer holidays. If you did some research on the options, at some point you have a list with a lot of Ebola hospitals, refugee camps, Boy Scout camps and the like. Once you reach the option “Obese Teenager Diet Camp in Austria”, stop right there. It won’t get any worse. Teenage girls obsessed with losing their virginity and eating; ill-haired sports instructors intellectually rooted in Hitler Youth summer camp and Guantanmo traditions; village youth not minding the occasional public date rape; camp physician with whatever kind of problems leads one to take off your clothes and ask your patient to examine your bare chest.

As always, you will not find a nice person in the film, but at least you can – if you feel inclined – identify some traces of the problems the characters carry around (some reviewers actually criticised the film for these “cheap answers”… see what Seidl makes people do…). For those fat kids, it seems to be a routine of getting pushed away from their families, into this diet camp or that, with the usually separated parents at home quite happy about being left alone for a while. The staff working at the camp must always keep up the façade of sternness and discipline, while sometimes just wanting to be a troubled human themselves among all those troubled humans that come through their patch-up machine every year.

Those three “Paradies” films should be a monument of Austrian cinema verite, to be hopefully remembered for a long time, and I hope they will be bravely defended against critics who accuse the author of soiling the beautiful Austrian image. He is brave for doing this, and should be commended for this courage alone. In particular, he should be praised, however, for having made three spectacularly honest and incidentally absolutely splendid and thrilling films.

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