Paradise. An Imperialist Tragicomedy (Paradies. Eine imperialistische Tragikomödie)

Technical data
90 min, 16 mm, color

A multinational company owned by Mrs. Judit Angst is facing financial difficulties. She decides to hire a group of young anarchists to fake her kidnapping. After a couple of weeks spent in confinement, she will be able to justify the downfall of her company before the people, and at the same time it will also build her status as an opponent of destruction and chaos. A direct inspiration for the film was the kidnapping of Peter Lorenz, a center-right politician from Berlin, in the early 1970s. Lorenz spent two weeks in the captivity of the Bewegung 2. Juni terrorist group, from which he was released after the government met the kidnappers’ demands. The case was subsequently exploited for the benefit of his election bid to become the mayor of Berlin.

The film was planned as a big production with a 250,000 DM budget, and Žilnik had already extensively scouted various locations in Munich and was negotiating the participation of prominent actors such as Hanna Schygulla and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The atmosphere in the city was tense due to concerns around terrorism and the growing prominence of the Rote Armee Fraktion (Red Army Faction). Because of the dynamics of local city politics at the time, Bavarian television withdrew its support for the film. As a result, Žilnik lost both his funding and the producer who facilitated the TV collaboration, so he decided to do the film in a more low-key manner. His production budget shrank to 60,000 DM, which came from some previously confirmed sponsors, and he moved forward with a team of people who were enthusiastic about making the movie happen—such as, for example, his costume designer, Giesela Siebauer, who agreed to play the leading female role. During the editing process, done at Filmverlag der Autoren, colleagues were already warning Žilnik that the film would get him into trouble.

Paradies premiered at Werkstattkino in Munich. Although the audience was enthusiastic, Žilnik learned that the police came the day after and asked that the film be removed from the cinema’s repertoire. To evaluate the response his film might receive upon wider release, Žilnik decided to show it to a committee of prominent film critics who worked for the broadcaster ARD in Frankfurt. After watching the film, they advised him not to show it to anyone. Upon Žilnik’s return to Munich, he was almost immediately visited by the police. They couldn’t find anything to link him to terrorism, but saw receipts that showed that some of the film’s collaborators had been paid in cash. Claiming this amounted to tax fraud, they arrested Žilnik and his cameraman, Andrej Popović, and took them to Polizei Presidium at midnight. Žilnik called Alexander Kluge, who at the time was the president of the Directors Association and also a lawyer, to help them out. Kluge negotiated that the police would drop charges and release Žilnik and Popović from jail, on the condition they would leave the country. They had twelve hours to pack before the police escorted them to the Austrian border. They were never officially registered as expelled or banned from returning.


Written and directed by: Želimir Žilnik
Camera: Andrej Popović
Sound: Horst Schönberger
Edited by: Elisabeth Orlov
Music: Peđa Vranešević & Sparifankel
Production manager: Frank Thomas Aeckerle

Cast: Gisela Siebauer, Michael Straleck, Dan van Husen, Nataša Stanojević, Filiz Jakub, Akki Ahrens, Siegfried Broesecke, Johannes Zeh, Amelie Ohlbrecht, Cornelia Wimmer, Lilo Wegener, Thomas Henzen

Production: Alligator Film, Münich

Photographs from the film