Club Zero (2023)

Club Zero (2023) MOVIE DETAILS
Name: Club Zero
Year: 2023
Country: Austria, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Denmark, Qatar
Director: Jessica Hausner
Main cast: Mia Wasikowska, Florence Baker, Ksenia Devriendt, Samuel D Anderson, Luke Barker
Runtime: 110 minutes
Production company: ARTE, BBC Film, Austrian Film Institute, Coop99 Filmproduktion, Gold Rush Films, Coproduction Office

Four years ago, a strange drama-thriller criticizing how the rich and powerful can unconsciously and yet cruelly alienate the ones you love the most, specifically the husband to his pregnant wife who develops a very strange and dangerous eating habit surprised with great enjoyment the audience for the Sitges Film Festival. The movie was called Swallow (2019) and it was nominated for the Best Motion Picture award in the Official Fantàstic Competition. Coincidentally, this year we have a movie that holds lots of similarities, both with the tempo, the coldness of the images, and the plot, with Swallow (2019), and is also running for the same award. This is Club Zero (2023), the new film by the Austrian writer and director Jessica Hausner.

The film shows how the new nutritionist teacher of an exclusive school persuades her little group of students to reduce the amount of food they ingest. That crazy diet flirts with things like anorexia and bulimia, but also with other supposed to be harmless for health objectives like improving your school grades or protecting the environment until reaching the top level of grotesque with the ultimate degree the teacher proposes: the absolute absence of food to become something almost god-like.

Club Zero (2023) shows an acid social critique of many aspects of the modern life in the first world, like the narcissism of the high classes, how environmentalism can become merely a fashion, the expensive and exclusive elite schools that create brainless clones of the unattached from reality parents, and mostly frivolizes with something as dangerous as the eating disorders can be. Hausner shoots to kill and she hits the targets. It even shows with the development of her characters how mental manipulation from the teachers or gurus can brainwash weak minds with false hopes, a common practice that is a specialty for the religious sects and cults but it could also be considered for any devotional doctrines. And, it all, wrapped up with a very smart and calculated script that brings Jessica Hausner and her co-writer Géraldine Bajard to build the series of steps where the audience can see little by little how the situation becomes more bizarre and absurd as the students are more into the speeches of the mysterious teacher.

The director and her cinematographist Martin Gschlacht do a splendid job of portrait the impersonal of the institution, the silly situations regarding the parents so concerned about their kids’ health, and the ridiculousness of some of the meetings the weird nutritionist incarnated by Mia Wasikowska, all surrounded with very acid comedy with moments so surreal that you can’t help but to laugh; and very subtle and mysterious camera work that takes the audience as one more member of those exclusive meetings.

Despite being a smart and unique film, and having some moments where the grotesque of the situations are taken to an absurd level that they become comical, the entire watching of Club Zero (2023) can become boring at some points and the running time is perhaps too excessive. Still, it is a film highly recommended for movie lovers who want to see something out of the ordinary and with a little bit of social commentary.

Club Zero (2023) was received at the Sitges Film Festival with the Melià Auditori packed to the rafters and an audience fancying a good time and sharing some laughs. Swallow (2019) lost the Official Fantàstic Competition award to The Platform (2019) (aka El Hoyo in the original Spanish language); will Club Zero (2023) have better luck and rise victorious with the award? We will know next week.

RATE: 6/10