Welcome to the Ending Explained for “Paradise,” a new German science fiction film releasing on Netflix this week. Boris Kunz directs the film and stars Kostja Ullmann, Marlene Tanczik, Corinna Kirchhoff, Lisa-Marie Koroll, Lorna Ishema, and Numan Acar. The film is a classic dystopian story that feels very much in line with what is happening in the last season of Black Mirror and what is happening right now in real life with the advent of AI. It seems that selling part of ourselves to make money and rich people buying those things to make their lives even more comfortable will actually be a thing, and it is kind of scary.
Paradise is very well-directed, and it presents some very solid performances. However, what really stands out is the world that presents itself. Of course, like in almost all dystopias, the story centers around a class struggle, the ones who have it all and those who have nothing. Many moral implications might sound a bit scary. We are presented with a technology that can actually take years of your life out of you and turn it into currency. It seems nothing is sacred, not in fiction or real life. Will something like this become our reality? We can only hope we are smart enough to stop it, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
The following paragraphs contain spoilers for Paradise. Read at your own risk.
Why 40 years get taken out of Elena?
The movie begins by introducing us to the concept of time currency, which, in a way, is very similar to what the movie “In Time” presents, but the tone of this movie is much bleaker. A company has created a process through which people can take years out of their lives and get paid huge amounts of money.
This money comes from rich people who are DNA-compatible with the donor and will pay to extend their lives as much as possible. And so, this is a society in which immortality can be afforded, by just a few, of course, as each year you buy is incredibly expensive.
We get introduced to Max, a year broker, who is in the middle of a negotiation. A young man just got to his 18th birthday, and his parents want him to sell 15 years of his life, so they can pay their debts and become German citizens. 15 years at 18 still seems like a lot, and it is. Max ends up convincing them.
He is married to a woman named Elena, and they seem to be having a very happy life. Max wins broker of the year at work, having traded more than 260 years this year alone. He receives huge congratulations from friends and family.
However, in this world, not everyone agrees with what is being done with time. Elena’s father gets into heated discussions with Max over the morality of selling time to the rich, so they can keep ruling the world for longer.
We also learn that a paramilitary group goes against the time trade and recently executed patients at a time trading facility. The world is going down, and they believe that prohibiting technology from being used is the only way to save it. Of course, money and capitalism seem much stronger at keeping the business alive.
One day, when coming back home, Max and Elena discover that their apartment has caught on fire, and Elena is put in doubt because she doesn’t remember if she put out a candle. The debt on the apartment is too big, and so the bank is ready to take everything from Max and Elena, including 40 years from Elena’s life, which she signed as collateral when they were asking for a loan to buy the apartment.
Max asks for help everywhere, including from his boss, but no one can stop the process because it is legal. Elena begs, but the process goes through, and in one day, she grows 40 years older.
Does Elena recover her lost years?
Disappointed with the system, Max goes on a rampage, trying to find a way to cure Elena of her condition. He gets promoted at work, but he doesn’t care. Finally, he gets in contact with a girl selling drugs, who is actually an adult who got younger. Max is told that they can give back her lost years to Elena for a price.
The only thing he needs is to find and bring a donor. Because only DNA-compatible people can donate and receive years, Max plans to kidnap Sophie, the woman who bought Elena’s years. She finds her alone at a cemetery and kidnaps her.
Max brings Elena into the fold. She is unconvinced at first but then goes on board. If she can get her years back, she’ll take it. Max puts Sophie in the trunk, and then they travel through Germany to get to the black site where the process will be performed. They manage to evade numerous checkpoints along the way.
Finally, they come to rest at an abandoned house. There, Sophie tells them that she isn’t actually Sophie, but Marie, Sophie’s daughter. She says her mother will pay for everything to get her back. Max believes she is lying. Even if it is really Marie, they can still use her. Her mother will buy her years back someday.
In the middle of the night, Max and Elena are caught off guard by the paramilitary group that is against time trading. They certified that the girl was actually Marie and not Sophie. They want to use Marie to bring Sophie out and kidnap her. Max and Elena agree, but when Sophie shows up, her bodyguards realize everything is a trap. There is a shootout, and many people die.
Max, Elena, and Marie escape. Elena has decided that she will get her years back no matter what. Max is not so sure anymore now that he knows she isn’t Sophie. Elena draws a knife and leaves Max in the middle of the road.
Elena finds the place and gives Marie to the doctor, who performs the procedure. Elena has her years back, and Marie slowly turns old. She rendezvouses with her mother, who says they will try to get a donor for her somehow. Years have passed, and we see a young Elena, pregnant with a new man.
Max watches from a distance, and we see he has joined the group. They all get their weapons ready to keep the fight against the system. A new beginning for everyone, even if Max and Elena’s relationship had to be destroyed.