Andrei Konchalovsky’s Paradise is finally showing on our Montreal screens. The Winner of the Director Award at the 2016 Venice Film Festival stars Yuliya Vysotskaya (House of Fools, The Lion in Winter).

During World War 2, Olga, a Russian aristocrat living in Paris, is arrested for giving shelter to Jewish children and put into a concentration camp. A high-ranking SS officer, Helmut, who was in love with her in peaceful times, makes plans to save her, casting doubts in her mind as she is confronted to the necessity of survival and choices.

Beautifully shot in black and white by Cinematographer Aleksandr Simonov Paradise story is told from three different view points: Olga, Helmut and a French collaborator. Scenes are cut with interviews of the three speaking in turns in front of the camera. Their tale is illustrated mainly in a traditional narrative. It grants the aura of old classic movies enhanced by convincing performances, especially by the leading lady.

The most interesting overall aspect of Konchalovsky’s Paradise is his depiction of how Hell on Earth is simply created by humans. For instance, he details Helmut as totally human through the relation and capable of the worst outside of it. It makes something  visceral out of its premises.

An intriguing film by an old master.


*** Out now at Cineplex Forum (English) & Quartier Latin (French)