Paradise: Faith is the second film in Ulrich Seidl’s trilogy following Paradise: Love. There are no obvious connecting scenes but its protagonist is, Anna Maria, the sister of Love’s reluctant sex tourist Teresa. As the title might suggest, she’s seeking comfort in her religion while on holiday from work.
A devout Catholic, she spends her time going from door to door with a statue of the virgin Mary, asking those who answer to pray with her in an attempt to convert them to her beliefs. She also attends a pitifully small prayer group which aims to ‘make Austria a Catholic nation again’. Unsurprisingly, many slam the door in her face, and others end up arguing with her. Unfortunately Seidl doesn’t seem too interested in exploring discussions of her faith with those who don’t share it, with only one interesting exchange on the nature of adultery with a widower taking place.
As with Love, Seidl films her in a detached, non-judgemental manner, giving the same presentation to her common religious practices like playing hymns on her keyboard and her darker, more extreme habits, like talking to ornaments on her walls and regularly self-flagellating.
These acts aside, her conservative life seems fairly mundane, but looks to change with the mysterious reappearance of her ex-husband – a wheelchair-bound Muslim – in her living room. Like the earlier scenes however, Faith disappointingly doesn’t get into a debate about their different belief systems, instead focusing on their marital past and present feelings toward one another, culminating in a scene almost as painfully uncomfortable as Love’s hotel room one.
Paradise: Faith bears many thematic and aesthetic similarities to its predecessor but is undoubtedly an inferior work. Its overall story is less compelling and often feels stretched, with many of its semi-improvised scenes lasting far longer than they need to. Plus it squanders opportunities to explore the conflict of religious beliefs. Though testing, it’s still a provocative and memorable film, and hasn’t put me off wanting to see the (apparently better) conclusion to the trilogy.