The next day she goes to work, barking patients into a MRI scanner before taking a fortnight’s vacation at home.
And after cleaning her house from top to bottom, Anna Maria heads out into the projects on the other side of Vienna, on her holiday’s true purpose – to bring the Good News to immigrants, and teaching them to pray to a statue of the Virgin Mary on loan.
But it’s not until she dons a self-mortifying iron belt and processes through her apartment on her knees that we begin to notice that her faith is one prayer short of a rosary devotion, as Seidl exposes the ridiculousness of her worship, walking on her knees at speed and culminating in her bed-time advances on a crucifix.
From the sterile surroundings of the diet camp, Seidl filters impeccably pristine, minimalist images in which any hint of sensuality, passion or anarchy would appear to be a complete anathema.
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Seidl appears to treat the character with scorn or pity, but the film gets much more complex and layered with the return of her paraplegic husband, a Muslim whom she married in earlier, less devout times, but now regards as a test of her faith.
As an intimate holy war breaks out in their clinically spotless home, Seidl fearlessly adopts a ruthless comedy of embarrassment, which strips bare the underlying contradictions between her evangelical fanaticism and supposedly Christian compassion.
In between physical training and nutritional counselling, nightly pillow fights and a secret bout of binge drinking at the local disco, she falls in love with the doctor and camp director, who is forty years her senior.
Melanie uses all her seductive wiles to win him over …In the third part of his 'paradise' trilogy - following - Ulrich Seidl pits the deep-seated human desire for love and security against harsh reality.
And when she stumbles upon an orgy in a park at night, it’s a proximity to sex beyond her buttoned-up suburban chastity that both revolts and excites her, literally running home to take a (cold) shower.
Faith becomes her armour against sexual desire, directing all her wants towards Jesus on the cross, kissing and caressing her crucifix beneath the sheets.
Her staunchly Catholic aunt is absorbed in house-to-house evangelism.
Thus, thirteen-year-old Melanie spends the holidays in a diet camp in the Austrian mountains.
But with Seidl’s observational style, is more heavy-handed in its mocking distance, simplistic in its analogies and strained in its conflict.