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Miss Novak joins the staff of an international boarding school to teach a conscious eating class. She instructs that eating less is healthy. The other teachers are slow to notice what is happening and by the time the distracted parents begin to realise, Club Zero has become a reality.

Director's Statement

The Teachers-Kids-Parents Relationship

CLUB ZERO looks at how parents hand over the responsibility for their children to a teacher who misuses this trust. They are forced to live through the biggest nightmare of every parent: losing their child. CLUB ZERO addresses this existential fear and ponders, “How can parents be close to their children when they simply do not have enough time for them?”

This problem is not an individual one but one of our society - this could happen to me, as well as to you. Parents do not know everything that goes on at a school and do not have the time, or the means, to figure it out. We live in a meritocracy that makes us work more and more. I am led to the impression that the failure of the parents is systemic.

In our society, teaching and care giving are often badly paid and not valued enough, yet they should be highly respected jobs that are well paid. Especially because teachers and care givers take over more and more responsibility. I am interested in how our society assigns such responsibility. Should parents fully trust teachers or should they take on more responsibility? And how is that possible in a society that is based on work and success? As Miss Dorset, the film’s headmistress, says, “Parents don’t have time for their children and then it is up to us to give them all the attention and affection they need.”

Youth, Ideology & Manipulation

Young people today fear for their future. They fight for it. They want to act, to assume responsibility, to have power over their lives, to make a difference. To find meaning. They want to save the planet and, in doing so, their future. They become political, some join radical groups. They don’t want to wait until it’s too late. I understand that and I have deep sympathy for this generation.

In CLUB ZERO, Ms. Novak melds the children’s fears and wishes into her ideology. She truly believes that she is saving them and together they take it too far, increasing the dangerous inclination of some of them towards developing eating disorders.

Not eating can be a way of punishing others. For parents, it is most painful to see one’s child refusing to eat. It is a refusal that translates into a refusal to live. Where this rejection comes from is a very important question to ask. Food refusal is also a political form of strike - an extreme form of passive resistance whether against parents or against society.

Faith, Fasting & Religion

Food control has always been part of religion. I think this is because through fasting, you feel a high that encourages spiritual enlightenment. You can change your mind through changing your food intake. Furthermore, controlling your food intake suggests controlling your body. It strengthens a feeling of power and of being “special”.

Eating is very personal but at the same time very social. Imagine you meet friends for dinner and you don’t eat. This can make them feel attacked, it can irritate them. Why? Because you question their way of living. We all believe in something, no one is free from superstition. Each of us belongs to a group that has certain principles or codes. We need to understand the subjectivity of our beliefs to understand how Ms. Novak and the kids are convinced of theirs. Their “food religion” is an example of a radical belief.

Fairytales & Archetypes

Traditional fairytales are told to help children (and adults) gain a moral compass, to learn right from wrong. In CLUB ZERO, Ms. Novak and the kids question common belief, they have their own truth. Even though they obviously are going to starve, they still believe. A strong inspiration for me was the fairytale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, in which at the end all children die. Except one, who was sick that day and could not join the other children. Russian fairytales were also inspirational, they convey a completely different morality than European fairytales. Morality is distributed in a different way, the crooks and thugs are often the heroes of the story.

To use a fairytale as an inspiration also gives way to a more distanced approach: psychological or social details are pushed into the background to tell a more universal story. The characters resemble archetypes rather than individuals. Thus, the aesthetics of CLUB ZERO connect to Bertolt Brecht’s idea of the Distancing Effect (“Verfremdungseffekt” in German). The setting and costumes are very colourful and feel artificial, the mise-en-scène resembles a choreography where the individual dissolves into a uniformed group. One could also characterise the film’s style as heightened realism.

There is a certain kind of absurdity that dwells in our existence, a lot of things that we believe in and that we do seem ridiculous, absurd or in vain. In my films, I always try to find a distant perspective to reflect upon this. CLUB ZERO is told from such a point of view - exaggeration to the extent of absurdity offers a strangely humorous approach to the film’s darker themes.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Jessica Hausner

Written by: Géraldine Bajard, Jessica Hausner

Produced by: Philippe Bober, Bruno Wagner, Mike Goodridge, Johannes Schubert

Cinematography: Martin Gschlacht

Editing: Karina Ressler

Production Design: Beck Rainford

Costume Design: Tanja Hausner

Make-Up & Hair: Heiko Schmidt, Kerstin Gaecklein

Original Score: Markus Binder

Sound: Patrick Veigel, Erik Mischijew, Tobias Fleig

Visual Effects: Markus Kircher, Felix Pichler, Sebastian Mayrhuber, Aksana Vezhnivets, Matthias Halibrand

Casting: Lucy Pardee

Cast: Sidse Babett Knudsen (Miss Dorset), Ksenia Devriendt (Elsa), Luke Barker (Fred), Florence Baker (Ragna), Samuel D Anderson (Ben), Gwen Currant (Hellen)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Original Score 2023
  • Feature Film Selection 2023