CLUB ZERO BY JESSICA HAUSNER

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The ironically critical film „Club Zero“, directed by Austrian filmmaker Jessica Hausner, had its world premiere at the 76th Cannes Film Festival and is currently available for viewing on the KinoKouch Free Zone (Slobodna zona) platform. This film indirectly addresses eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. However, its focus extends to the loneliness and insecurity of young people, which paves the way for manipulation.

„Club Zero“ further prompts an examination into the phenomenon of parents readily transferring their responsibilities to educators, potentially subjecting their trust to exploitation. The film prompts reflection on how precisely five children transitioned from a basic necessity like food to a practice of abstention.

„Club Zero“- Photo-Slobodna-zona-Promo

In the cinematic narrative of „Club Zero,“ we are immersed in the tale of a teacher who, upon securing a position at an international, elite school for talented individuals, forges an (excessively) intimate bond with five students. Propagating the notion of conscientious food consumption, she gradually initiates her most devoted pupils into a peculiar cult.

The film unfolds with seven students articulating their motivations for enrolling in the course during the initial scene — aspirations to save the planet, resist consumerist mentalities, shed excess weight, and combat fast-food dependencies.

Miss Novak, portrayed by Mia Wasikowska, exudes a facade of gentleness and initial reasonability, concealing an authoritative character beneath. Ostensibly positioned to assist, she utilizes informative graphs to illustrate the perils of overeating and poor nutrition, suggesting an alternative — what she terms conscious eating, contrasting it with habitual overindulgence. However, this conscious eating, championed as the sole correct and healthy approach, swiftly transforms into a stringent diet featuring a plant-based mono diet. Upon revealing that the most committed will gain entry to a clandestine society, Club Zero, where members abstain from any form of consumption, she ushers them into a state of utter starvation.

„Club Zero“- Photo-Slobodna-zona-Promo

Before delving into the film, one might initially believe that the concept of conscious eating, as opposed to overindulgence, is a positive message. However, the film challenges this assumption through aesthetically stylized scenes marked with irony. The manipulative teacher, driven by a fervent ideology, leads five vulnerable children to interpret a stringent approach to nutrition, essentially abstaining from food, as a ritual embodying virtue and self-discipline.

Notably, the film institutionalizes anorexia within the school environment, where the director (played by Sidse Babet Knudsen of „Borgen“ fame) appears disinterested in these children, despite feigning concern. This parallels the seemingly caring yet ultimately neglectful parents.

The children’s decision to follow Teacher Novak and cease eating is rooted in their yearning for attention and a desire to be unique, searching for purpose in their lives. The film portrays how the concept of Club Zero becomes an outlet for these needs, albeit with perilous consequences.

 

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