There’s a new diet trend with sinister intentions, courtesy of Jessica Hausner’s latest dark comedy “Club Zero.”
The film, which premiered at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, stars Mia Wasikowska as a nefarious teacher who encourages her students to stop eating altogether. The reason? Other than weight loss and pseudo-environmental concerns, it’s a tactic to gain new cult members.
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“Club Zero” competed for the Palme d’Or at Cannes before going on to become a Best Picture nominee at both the Sitges and Munich International Film Festivals.
The official synopsis reads: “At an international boarding school, an unassuming yet rigorous Miss Novak (Wasikowska) joins the teaching staff to instruct a new class on ‘conscious eating.’ Her impressionable teenage students each have their own reasons for joining the class – to improve fitness, reduce their carbon footprint, or get extra credit. Although early lectures focus on mindful consumption, Miss Novak’s discussions soon become increasingly disordered and extreme. A suspicious headmistress, concerned parents and the failing health of her students lead everyone to question the inscrutable Miss Novak’s motivations for teaching the class. As a few devoted pupils fall deeper under her cult-like tutelage, they are given a new, even more sinister goal to aspire to – joining the ominous Club Zero.”
In addition to Wasikowska, the cast includes Sidse Babett Knudsen, Elsa Zylberstein, Mathieu Demy, Amir El-Masry, Ksenia Devriendt, Luke Barker, Florence Baker, and Samuel D Anderson.
“Club Zero” marks Austrian writer-director Hausner’s sixth film behind debut “Little Rita,” critically acclaimed “Lourdes,” and her most recent “Little Joe” in 2019. Hausner co-wrote the script for “Club Zero” along with Geraldine Bajard.
Hausner told IndieWire’s Ryan Lattanzio while at the Cannes Film Festival that she was looking to work with actress Wasikowska ever since watching her performance in the series “In Treatment.” Hausner explained that the inspiration behind the cult driven by food (or lack thereof) in “Club Zero” was due to the intimate nature of eating.
“It’s things that you actually put into your body. It’s very personal in that sense,” Hausner said, “but it’s also social, because it’s something we do together or with friends, so it says a lot about the rituals we have as a society….It’s as important as sex or sleep.”
She continued, “I am interested in all sorts of religious substitutes that exist nowadays, so part of being Catholic or Christian or whatever, I think there are a lot of cults going on that aren’t necessarily combined to a religion. Nutrition offers a lot of ideology to build up with, and I found out that in nutrition, also, there are some people who are vegan who hate vegetarians and things like that, so you suddenly enter a world of very dedicated but even extremist opinions. That inspired me to choose that specific subject of nutrition.”
“Club Zero” is produced by Philippe Bober, Mike Goodridge, Johannes Schubert, and Bruno Wagner, with Per Damgaard Hansen, Clemens Köstlin, and Olivier Père serving as co-producers. The film is executive produced by Kristin Irving, Alex C. Lo, Eva Yates, and Vladimir Zemtsov.
“Club Zero” premieres at New York City’s IFC Center March 15, followed by Los Angeles’ the Laemmle Royal March 22. The film will have a wide release in Atlanta, San Diego, Cleveland, and additional markets to follow. Check out the trailer below.
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