The second in Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise Trilogy, with Love already released and Hope still to come, Faith focuses on Anna Maria (Maria Hoffstatter), sister of the protagonist in Love. The movie kicks off with Anna on her last day in work at a local hospital before her holidays begin, but instead of actually going anywhere, she is spending her free time visiting local immigrants. She knocks on their door, giant statue of The Virgin Mary in hand, and almost barges into their home, demanding that they allow her and The Love Of Our Lord into their lives. When she’s at home alone, she divides her time between methodically cleaning up, and self-flagellating for sins she has not actually committed herself. But then her routine is disrupted by the return of her crippled Muslim husband Nabil (Nabil Saleh), who is unwilling to share his wife's love with her God.
As with Paradise: Love, writer/director Seidl makes his point, and then continues to make it over and over again, this time focusing on the damage caused by religious devotion. There is very little weighted argument to be found here, with only negative connotations to Anna Maria's force-feeding others her single-minded beliefs. There are some scenes where people try to argue or discuss the theology of Jesus and The Bible, but Anna Maria's defiance in the face of anyone else's opinion forces us to think that she is either the butt of a joke, or to be generally disliked, or should possibly be sympathized with. But you are definitely not to like this character, and things only get worse once Nabil arrives; starting off as an interesting vantage point of reason, he soon turns into a violent, angry sexist who's own religious beliefs would have Anna Maria crawling on hand and knee, obeying his every whim.
As Anna's love of Jesus goes from creepy to out-and-out physical, the film throws subtlety to the wind. The fantastic performances by Hoffstatter and Saleh go some way to redeem the movie's repetition and glumness, and there are some scenes here that will undoubtedly spurn on some debates on the way out of the cinema, but there is just very little else here to approve of.
Review by Rory Cashin | 09:27 | Friday 28th June 2013 | Movie Review