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Ulrich Seidl, 2012-13
Stark, pitiless, at times darkly comic, Ulrich Seidl’s films hold up a mirror to the modern soul while grabbing it by the scruff of the neck. This tripartite work starts with Love, which follows a middle-aged Austrian mother on a package holiday to Kenya where she seeks sex and companionship from young African men but finds only a mortifying dance of mutual exploitation.
But this is a light aperitif compared with the bitter tang of Faith, in which a Catholic woman whose dogged devotion borders on OCD is disrupted by the return of her Muslim husband, now paraplegic. Repressed sexuality, religious obsession and disability? Even for Seidl this is laying it on thick.
Finally, Hope dangles the possibility of a happy ending but can there be one in the story of an obese 13-year-old at a fat camp who grows infatuated with an ageing diet doctor? Like a mordant Big Brother, Seidl’s stubbornly static camera and long, intrusive shots lay bare his characters at their most vulnerable, delusional and distressed. His methods may not be subtle, and at times the profound rubs shoulders with the prurient, but in the age of so-called reality TV, Seidl’s harsh vision of life unvarnished has a grim authenticity that just dares you to look away.