Veteran Russian filmmaker Andrei Konchalovsky stretches plausibility with an experimental take on the Holocaust drama
Paradise takes an audacious narrative gamble – its success hinges on the audience making a similarly bold leap of faith.
The story and its setting are familiar. We’re given a cross sectional snapshot of the Third Reich’s grisly end, told through the intertwined fates of three characters: a corrupt Vichy collaborator, the Resistance member he ensnares and the ideologically inconstant SS officer who tries to save her.
The telling, however, is something different. Conventional, chronological narrative is periodically interrupted by interview sections with the main players who answer questions posed by an unknown interlocutor and reflect on the events we see unfold elsewhere. Sat in an unidentifiable, greyscale netherworld, our protagonists are filmed head-on and deliver monologues with the uncanny quality of verbatim theatre pieces.
It’s an unusual move that makes for an awkward coupling of documentary and dramatic techniques. And when the film’s sleight of hand is exposed after a brief 25 minutes and we learn of the interviews’ particular significance, the revelation may successfully disrupt expectation, but it’s also likely to divide opinion.