Formally, a key difference between the "Paradise" films and most of Seidl's earlier features is that they don't rely on crosscutting. Previously the director would advance a single theme by alternating between several characters and story lines. It was a clever way to bring a sense of dramatic development to mostly static images, but it could also come off as flip. As soon as a character's plight seemed too pathetic to watch (I think of the flabby, middle-aged masochist in Dog Days), Seidl would cut to something else. At his worst moments, he seemed to be challenging the viewer's empathy so that he could pull back and say, "Just kidding."
The "Paradise" films avoid this exit strategy—each one sticks to a single protagonist and refuses to abandon her no matter how humiliating her behavior. This isn't unprecedented in Seidl's work, however: his 1997 documentary The Bosom Friend, made for Austrian TV, focused on one subject to moving effect. It's currently viewable on YouTube in a decent-enough transfer; you can watch it here.
That subject, Rene Rupnik, is a lonely, sex-obsessed, and possibly virginal high school math teacher who lives with his mother in a cluttered apartment. Rupnik has spent his life fantasizing about women, ranking them according to preference and considering their anatomy with scientific rigor. Seidl first invites us to view his obsession comically, introducing Rupnik in front of a chalkboard illustration of a bosom-like parabola. But as the man defends himself throughout the film's hour-long run time, he seems sadder and sadder. Rupnik is a man trapped within his perversions, which he seems to have embraced as a justification for his loneliness. The Bosom Friend climaxes with Rupnik telling a long story about stalking the Austrian actress Senta Berger (if his story is to be believed, she was rather a good sport about it). By this point, Seidl has established such intimacy with the subject that we recognize the episode, albeit ironically, as a personal triumph. At least this creepy obsession afforded him some moments of human interaction.a recent interview for Austrian TV, the generally amiable Seidl took offense only when the host likened his movies to comic strips. "I want to show real people who are just like you and me," he said. Bosom Friend, like Seidl's most recent accomplishments, finds the universal qualities in a person most of us would instinctively ignore.