© Zauberland/Neue Visionen

Jena Paradies
Germany 2004

Opening 12 May 2005

Directed by: Marco Mittelstaedt
Writing credits: Karen Matting, Marco Mittelstaedt
Principal actors: Stefanie Stappenbeck, Luca Di Michieli, Bruno F. Apitz, Hans-Jochen Wagner, Gitta Schweighöfer

Five people create their own paradise in Jena, a town in former Eastern Germany. Jeanette (Stefanie Stappenbeck) lives alone with her son, 10-year-old Louis (Luca de Michieli, who is a beautiful child). She is a gardener’s assistant and helps Harry keep up the soccer grounds. Harry is also a volunteer soccer coach with little respect from his beer guzzling team. Louis is lonesome for an extended family and in spite of his mother’s antipathy toward relatives, convinces her to take him on her motor bike to a nearby town to visit the grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins. For no apparent reason Jeanette creates a new riff in the family relationship, scoops up Louis and returns to their simple home. He draws pictures and wishes for a better life. She imagines that the neighbor Philipp loves her, although he has a wife and child.

Whether dissatisfactory relationships, immaturity and lack of money make up a paradise is questionable, but they certainly reflect the lives of many people all over the world. You can almost imagine God watching these people struggle, like mice in a laboratory. However, like mice, these people learn and there is hope in the end. The grandma comes to her grandson; Jeanette lets go of her fantasy world to recognize her real love. In spite of there being some unexplained loose ends such as where is the father of Louis, why has Jeanette quarrelled with her mother, and what does Jeanette see in the soccer players, this is a fairly good, first full-length attempt by director Marco Mittelstaedt who filmed on location in Jena. (Becky Tan)

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