Excerpts from an interview with Ulrich Seidl

Corporality and, yes, beauty: What do they mean to you? Your films increasingly bring to mind the nude paintings and portraits of Lucian Freud...

Corporality always plays an important role in my films. I love filming close to the skin, showing people in their unenhanced physicality, without makeup. For me it's precisely in the unbeautified that you find something like beauty.

The trilogy is framed by concepts: "Faith, Hope, Charity" – the title of a play by the Austrian writer Ödön von Horváth. Was he an influence?

When I was younger I was a passionate reader of Ödön von Horváth. And to some extent his novels and plays influenced my attitude to life and my way of seeing others. But he had no direct influence on the PARADISE Trilogy. The final choice of titles came only during the last stages of editing.

Although the term "trilogy" has been used to describe "PARADISE," each of the three films has its own aesthetic and narrative approach. Could you explain how that developed?

My filmic transposition, that is, how and with which images something is related, is determined as much by the physical setting, the locations, as by what, and under which conditions, is to be recounted. The atmosphere in which each story takes place also plays an important role. Kenya, for instance, which is noisy and which, with its ocean, palm trees and beaches, conveys a superficial sense of exotic freedom. Prior to filming I'd researched different places around the world – the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic – where you also find Sugar Mama tourism. In the end I chose Africa because I was interested in the charged social situations, the wounds from its European colonial past. Africa cast its spell over me: by its diversity and contradictions, horrors and beauty, poverty and wealth from tourism (which is itself nothing more than an updated colonialism). I find the continent endlessly inspiring – visually too.


Ulrich Seidl in conversation with Claus Philipp