The dystopian genre is filled with countless stories of future societies where technology has run out of control. More often than not, these technologies only serve to open the gap between those who have money and those who don’t. It is an essential part of a dystopian society to create this class war and remind us that corporations and those who are at the head of them are the true enemies. Paradise, a new German film released on Netflix this week, centers on a society like that where time has become a commodity for the rich and a currency for the poor.
Paradise is a film developed by Netflix and written and directed by Boris Kunz. The film serves as his second feature and marks a step up regarding scale and tone. The film stars Kostja Ullmann, Marlene Tanczik, Corinna Kirchhoff, Lisa-Marie Koroll, Lorna Ishema, and Numan Acar. The film tells the story of a future where technology has been developed to extract a lifetime from one person and give it to another. This technology has made time a currency used by the poor to pay their debts and used by the rich to extend their lives tenfold.
The setup for Paradise reminds us of the underrated “In Time” directed by Andrew Niccol. That film also had the same premise of time being used as a currency, thus making the rich basically immortal while the poor’s life expectancies were growing shorter and shorter. That movie gave an action-adventure feel to the entire thing. However, Paradise has opted for a more somber tone and more of a survivor kind of film in its execution. It makes for a different movie, and while the pacing and the plot development stumble here and there, the entire package makes for a very interesting watch.
Paradise tries to establish the characters’ world by using narration and many examples of how this technology has transformed life. We see parents forcing their young kids to sell even fifteen or more years of their lives so that they can help the family with their debts and expenses.
We see rich people giving themselves an entire second life’s worth of time by buying the lives of others, and we also see guerrilla groups rising to fight this new world head-on and try to bring back the old times once again. However, serving as a mirror to the real world, once the can of worms is opened, it is very hard to close it back.
And so the setting is the most interesting aspect of the film. It is a setting we wouldn’t want to live in. It also makes for a good place to deal with questions regarding the value of life and how corporations can do basically everything in the name of profit, even when that hurts us in the long run.
The advent of AI, and other technologies, doesn’t seem too farfetched after what is happening nowadays with the writer’s and actor’s strikes. They are fighting not to become obsolete thanks to technology. They seem to be the first but won’t be the last.
The way the characters are put into a very difficult situation seems a bit too on the nose, and we expected it to happen just a few minutes after the movie started. From there, the movie moves at a steady pace, and it is a bit too predictable. However, in the final stretch, the movie goes to interesting places and lets the characters go into very compelling branches of the story.
This makes the end hit harder, and although it remains a bit predictable, it rings true to the concept and how humanity is presented in a story like this.
The performances are quite solid, Kostja Ullmann is the standout, and it makes sense as he is the main character of the piece, a husband trapped in a very desperate situation, one where he will be pushed to do things that he never thought possible. His arc is quite interesting, especially as his entire motivation comes from his love for his wife.
He is not thinking about vengeance or anything of the like; he just wants to do right by his wife, even if she has already given up. It makes for a very heroic character in some sense. He might not be an action hero, but his actions are based on good intentions.
Lisa-Marie Koroll also stands out in a smaller role, but one that puts the young actress’ character through the wringer. He does a fantastic job, and she always keeps you guessing about what will happen to her or what she will do. The rest of the characters do solid work, but none of them are really spectacular, even when it comes to the character of Elena.
We could say that the character is well-written, but the actresses didn’t really elevate what was on the page. Other characters get introduced and have more thematic relevance, which is nice, while others are introduced and dropped very hard.
Visually, the movie is well done, the atmosphere is preserved very well thanks to this very cold cinematography, and the sets and locations all enforce this cold environment, perfect for a dystopian storyline.
The technology seems futuristic enough to convince us that this is supposed to happen five minutes into the future. They don’t have flying cars or robots or anything like that. There are still little devices and such that tell you that this is not our time. It might not be the most interesting-looking movie ever made, but the visuals do the job, and they fit with the story.
Paradise is a compelling, somewhat predictable dystopian movie that will make you think about the importance of time in our life. A vital resource that, in reality, cannot be bought but only wasted or used for good. The performances are solid, and the storyline is interesting, putting the characters in very difficult situations on many levels. The moral conundrums are fun to explore, and the universe presented in it is also quite scary. If you like this one, also try “In Time,” and it will serve as a very good double feature on the subject. This is a very good option to watch over the weekend.