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Mia Wasikowska Is A Dangerous Educator In Quirky Satire [Cannes]

May 28, 2023


Jessica Hausner’s latest drama, Club Zero, premiered at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival to mixed reception. The story follows a passionate teacher as she navigates her new position as a conscious eating instructor at an elite school. As she begins to form a strong bond with five students, they stumble further into the depths of eliminating food from their diet. Soon, their parents become concerned, calling for the firing of the teacher. Unfortunately, their demands may come too late as the students are willing to go to a point of no return.
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In the wickedly uncomfortable yet hilarious Club Zero, Hausner explores themes related to body dysmorphia, unhealthy eating habits, and inappropriate teacher-student relationships. While these concepts (separately and together) are heavy and often require trigger warnings, Hausner and Bajard’s script presents them through terrific humor and a satirical quirkiness that is amazingly perplexing. It’s the kind of feature that may induce various reactions from its audiences, ranging from anger and annoyance to worry and even just being fed up with the characters’ actions. Either way, this is bound to get a rise out of viewers.

Mia Wasikowska stars as the new teacher, Mrs. Novak, who claims to have the secrets of elevating oneself past the need for food and freeing oneself of all society’s lies about it thereof. It’s a guess, but it plays as an exceptional parallel to cult-like behavior or even preaching falsehoods about thinking for oneself by partaking in extreme and harmful behavior. Her performance is a mix of intimidating and petrifying as her manipulation tactics come in the form of a calm voice, positivity, and even building up the confidence of her students. Through these elements, it provides great commentary on the dangers of these types of people, especially when it comes to influencing young adults.

What may come as a surprise to viewers is that Club Zero actually offers some humorous moments that feel a bit uncomfortable simply because they’re so inappropriately funny. Some examples include Elsa (Ksenia Devriendt) puking up her meal then eating it to prove to her parents that her will power is stronger than her need for food. Then, there is Fred (Luke Barker), who no longer takes his diabetes medicine because his empty stomach is supposedly making him stronger and healing him. These wild occurrences are so extreme, but they’re presented in a way that proves a huge point. And it’s that with enough positive influence and coercion, an immature mind can always be persuaded to do the unthinkable. But a certain level of naivety certainly helps, too.

It’s not difficult to draw conclusions on what Hausner and co-writer Géraldine Bajard are trying to say and about whom. But one thing to keep in mind underneath all the humor and satirical storytelling is that teachers can be really helpful or shockingly dangerous to a child’s development. Of course, Club Zero is an extreme example of such. But when you look at current events and how people gather information these days, it’s a scary thought supported with possibility and probability. That’s what makes Hausner’s feature all the more amusing. She presents it, perhaps unintentionally, with a hint of fearmongering, yet buries it all in a basket of humor. Honestly, it’s brilliant.

Riddled with uncomfortable dialogue, audacious sequences, and a piercing score, Club Zero has all the ingredients to become a future cult classic. It’s for a great reason, too. The film contains a terrifying yet wonderful performance from Wasikowska, it includes brilliant commentary on the dangers of following blindly, and it provides great entertainment. The quirky script may not be for everyone, but my best guess is that no matter what you will think of this holistically, something in Club Zero will keep you talking.

Club Zero premiered at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival on May 22. The film is 110 minutes long and not yet rated.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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