Belief can only take you so far…
Maria’s Paradise is inspired by a true story from 1920’s Finland when Salome (Satu Tuuli Karhu) was “rescued” by Maria Åkerblom (Pihla Viitala), a charismatic seer who claims that God visits her in her dreams, and who has gathered a collection of devoted followers around her in an upscale rural farmhouse. Things take a turn when she begins to question the teachings of this religious sect and their actions get more and more notorious.
Director Zaida Bergroth returns to the fest with a slick looking affair that draws us into the emotions of a young girl looking for guidance but ultimately drags far too long as it tries to wrap itself up.
Bergroth crafts a visually strong affair that allows the audience to really get wrapped up in the tension of it all. It plays outwardly quite softly but Bergroth keeps us guessing with great visual clues and quiet little plot points dropped along the way. It’s immaculately designed as she transitions us from the light of God, to the nefarious darkness of something very far away from anything devout, with an ending that just plays quite flately.
Satu Tuuli Karhu as Salome is perfection as the ingénue who learns the hard way she’s not getting closer to god and Pihla Viitala as the saviour Maria brings a sly and menacing energy to the material.
Maria’s Paradise starts strong thanks to its performances and careful direction but just takes far too long finish.