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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Ulrich Seidl
Strand Releasing 08/13 DVD/VHS Feature Film
Paradise: Faith is the second part of Austrian film director Ulrich Seidl's trilogy about the different quests of three sisters in the same family. Each in her own way is seeking a way out of the trap of loneliness, guilt, shame, and separation. All three are yearning for what they see as their rightful share of happiness. The first film was Paradise: Love about Teresa's quest for love while on a vacation in Kenya.
In this film, Anna Maria (Maria Hofstatter) decides to take a staycation from her work as medical technician. She is a devout Catholic who begins each day with a ritual of self-flagellation followed putting a thorny cilice around her waist; she ends by kneeling topless in front of a crucifix on the wall in her bedroom. As further penance for her sins, Anna Maria stays on her knees as she circulates through her apartment praying. She sees these acts of self-abnegation as part of her disciplined devotion to God.
She follows these rituals by visiting the homes of nearby immigrants carrying a large statue of the Virgin Mary. Among those she tries to help are an alcoholic woman, an unmarried couple, and a hoarder. Anna Maria hopes to convert them to the Catholic faith. She is buoyed in her preaching and teaching by a small group of like-minded Catholics who are convinced that they have the truth. One night while returning home, she is disturbed when she sees people having sex in the park.
Anna Maria's staycation and rituals are interrupted by the return home of Nabil (Nabil Saleh), her Egyptian husband who is a Muslim. He is in a wheelchair due to an accident and finds his wife's refusal to sleep with him to be a cruel rejection. Of course, he has no idea that Anna Maria's obsession with Jesus has led her to masturbate with her crucifix.
Anna Maria drenches her husband with holy water and he knocks down her holy objects as their fighting escalates. The battle that ensues between this Christian woman and her Muslim husband mirrors the strife between these two religions down through the centuries. But in the end, Paradise: Faith shows what can happen when faith goes too far and the bubble bursts. Although many may feel that this lesson is only for a small minority of people, it has happened to many. Those who have walked the path of religious zeal will identify with Anna Maria's religious journey.
Special features on the DVD include a photo gallery & Paradise Trilogytrailers.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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