Jessica Hausner’s film object is accompanied from the outset by a warning about the eating disorders it evokes. Club Zero, the film by the Austrian director in the running for the Palme d’or, is a disturbing proposition on a theme that now worries almost everyone, the protection of the environment. In her latest feature film, she associates it with food, youth and education.
Miss Novak, camped by a mind-blowing Mia Wasikowska arrives at a private high school to teach mindful eating. The method she advocates advises, for example, to breathe before swallowing her chocolate bar. Becoming aware of one’s diet in this way would, according to her, be a way of participating in the protection of the environment. As the first scene of the film shows, the young people who enroll in his course have various motivations. But little by little, under the influence of their teacher, their relationship with food will be radicalized under the eyes of the parents of the high school students, two of whom are interpreted by the French actors Elsa Zylberstein and Mathieu Demy. Without arousing the mistrust of the manager of the establishment of excellence, embodied by the Danish Sidse Babett Knudsen decked out in a rather baroque wardrobe, Miss Novak takes her followers to the doors of the strange Club Zero.
A guru on their plates
After LittleJoe, also presented in competition in 2019 (actress Emily Beecham won the Best Actress Award), Hausner once again demonstrates her ability to image the influence, whether it is of plant origin – it was the case in his previous film – or human. First, through the organization of space, Miss Novak and her students evolve in perfectly ordered and sanitized settings which transmit a certain vacuity, both in the school and in the homes of their wealthy parents, from less for most of them.
Then, the dining tables, place of the exercise of the conscious food taught by Miss Novak, are dominating. The appetizing aspect of the dishes found there contrasts with the way new followers of the method welcome them, most often with indifference or disgust. The contrasts are also found at other levels. For example, when the dialogues trigger general hilarity to better plunge the audience back into the spiral of the drama they are witnessing. Just as the film’s shimmering palette contrasts with the dark narrative that is delivered: the red and green, which are often found in Hausner’s sets, are added here to the yellow and purple universe of the uniforms of the high school students.
Fed by an illusory freedom
Finally, the plot draws its strength from the lethargic bubble in which children and parents evolve for completely different reasons. Among high school students, it reflects their level of adherence to Ms. Novak’s theories and their desire to resist the dictates of consumer society. As for the parents, their passivity is a reflection of their powerlessness to find the appropriate solution to the problem which now confronts them. Especially since for some of this band of teenagers, the indoctrination of which they are victims finds more than favorable soil in a pre-existing malaise. Fred is neglected by his parents who swear by a project in Ghana, Elsa is anorexic – a family heritage it seems – and Ragna is complexed by her physical appearance.
The soundtrack of Club Zero plays thoroughly, perhaps a little too much moreover, the drama card to accompany this sectarian drift. Nevertheless, this choice reinforces his point which questions the ability of adults, parents and teachers, to intervene to protect children in a situation where all the signals are red. At a time when young people are subject to influences of all kinds and when their commitments are often complete, even somewhat radical, Club Zero sounds like a call for vigilance. Jessica Hausner has produced a powerful film which turns the stomach, both literally and figuratively, with the subject matter it tackles and its totally radical directing choices.
Gender : drama
Director: Jessica Hausner
Actors: Mia Wasikowska, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Amir El-Masry, Elsa Zylberstein, Mathieu Demy, Ksenia Devriendt, Luke Barker, Florence Baker, Samuel D Anderson, Gwen Currant
Country : Austria, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Denmark
Duration : 1h50
Exit : shortly
Distributer : BAC Films
Summary: Miss Novak joins a private high school where she initiates a nutrition course with an innovative concept, shaking up eating habits. Without it arousing the suspicions of the teachers
and parents, some students fall under his influence and join the very closed circle of the mysterious Club Zero.