Jessica Hausner takes concepts such as workaholism or dieting and makes them into extremes. In her 2019 film “Little Joe” a scientist became so engrossed in cultivating her indoor plants that she would choose them over her children. “Club zero” takes place in a high-school in a non-descript city. Ms. Novak (Mia Wasikowska), a nutrition teacher just joined the school, she comes with her own branded weight-loss tea, it has her face on the package.
Sidse Babett Knudsen stars as the high-school principal. She was recently in the Netflix series “Borgen.”
Teaching high-school how to eat consciously, forming a club, that’s the mission.
A small group of students join in, conscious eating is a club after all like chess club or the debate team. In a room of the high-school tables are separated and chairs grouped together, the participants sit in a circle. Principles of conscious eating combined with a desire to save the planet are discussed. The interiors of Hausner’s films look sterile, beautiful and non-descript all at once. Decrease your red meat intake, lower your carbon footprint. Keep your environment neat and tidy.
No information is provided about where Ms. Novak comes from and what her motivations are but she appeared to me a guru for a sect interested in magical thinking and destructiveness. “Club Zero” advances and becomes increasingly weird.
The starter idea for “Zero” was the Pied Piper of Hamelin tale. In it, a town in Saxony during the Middle Ages becomes overrun by rats. A piper arrives and leads all the rats away with his magic pipe, which saved the villagers from the plague. The villagers refuse to pay him and the piper takes his revenge by leading the village children away.
We all know someone who is a vegetarian, a vegan, even. There’s intention when you go into a McDonalds or walk up to a vending machine. There’s also an intention, of a different kind, when you become a vegan, it might be to lose weight, but more than likely it’s because you’re aware, you’ve watched videos and read articles, about animal cruelty or the planet heating up, lowering your carbon footprint or cholesterol.
The teenagers have their lunch in the cafeteria, they cut a very small piece of food, do a breathing exercise and ingest the bite, chewing slowly. Since the teenagers really take their new eating habits very seriously, bulimia occurs, discoloring of the face, the families of the teens become involved, they’re in the picture. They’re all wealthy, the parents, and they eat slowly. But they eat. Their teenage children soon stop eating altogether. Alert.
As Jessica Hausner is wont to do, she reveals without revealing and what it is she is revealing, or not, is up for debate here. Teenage angst? The myriad approaches, and the industry created around it, to eating and fasting, from the paleo diet to intermittent fasting, the extremes that some people go to in order to lose weight or play their part in curbing damage to the environment? There’s a sociological commentary to be teased out of “Club zero,” the Stockholm syndrome could be considered. But there’s no message at all, possibly, this is an opaque film, after all but the in-on-the-joke humor made this a pleasurable experience.