The Paradise Suite: The naked truth behind the “European Dream”
by Guglielmo Bettinardi
- Joost van Ginkel’s second feature, selected as the Dutch Oscar submission, gives us a critical and raw snapshot of modern-day Europe
In his second feature film, The Paradise Suite [+see also:
film profile], Dutch director Joost van Ginkel highlights the flaws in contemporary society through tangled relationships and random rendezvous between the main characters in the movie. The film, premiered at the Netherlands Film Festival and already selected as the Netherlands’ Best Foreign-language Film Oscar entry (read the news), is a mosaic about six people who find each other. Each protagonist is slowly introduced to the viewer through a step-by-step presentation, which allows us to delve deep inside their private lives and gain a better understanding of each one’s particular situation.
Revered Swedish conductor Stig (Magnus Krepper) has just landed in Amsterdam to perform a famous Mozart piece with an orchestra, along with his little son, Lukas (Erik Adelow). He is an extreme perfectionist, and this particular aspect of his character strongly influences his relationship with his son – in a negative way.
In Bulgaria, Jenya (Anjela Nedyalkova) wants to escape the boredom and the depressing environment that surrounds her. Supported by her mother (Petia Silianova), she gets accepted for a fairly suspicious modelling photo shoot in Amsterdam. Obviously, she’s not aware of the fact that following her dream is about to turn her boring life into a living nightmare.
A middle-aged Bosnian doctor, Seka (Jasna Djuricic), struggles to forget the death of her only son and lives side by side with this vivid memory every day. Her tormented soul yearns for revenge, and she knows that she may very well run into his killer, Ivica (Boris Isakovic), just by chance, every single time she leaves her house for a walk. Ivica is a two-faced, violent and unscrupulous man who is obsessed by just two things in life: money and his little son Mateja, one of the few things that are capable of clearing his mind and letting him forget his past as a war criminal.
Sometimes, keeping yourself away from committing a crime when you’re an illegal African immigrant fighting for survival can pose a serious challenge. Yaya (Issaka Sawadogo), the kindest, most generous and most courteous of immigrants, is at least trying to keep himself out of trouble. He could never imagine that his virtues may lead to his downfall.
Van Ginkel’s mastery allows him to easily bring together all of these complex elements in the evocative Dutch framework of Amsterdam, where the whole movie is set. The six characters will change each other’s lives forever, even through a mere exchange of glances. The “gaze game” is an issue central to the whole sequence of events; indeed, the turning point in a character’s situation is determined purely by a visual encounter. Through a particularly low-key, unobtrusive directing style, the director gives the audience an incredibly realistic portrait of contemporary Europe, where each of the characters embodies a current stereotype contained in the collective unconscious.