Mia Wasikowska never saw ‘Club Zero’ as glorifying eating disorders

May 24, 2023 - 6:13 PM
The 76th Cannes Film Festival - Press conference for the film "Club Zero" in competition - Cannes, France, May 23, 2023. Cast member Mia Wasikowska attends. (Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes)

Mia Wasikowska, star of the Cannes Film Festival entry “Club Zero,” said she was surprised that the movie about a teacher who manipulates students into drastically changing their eating habits could be seen as glorifying eating disorders.

“I never saw it as a glorification of eating disorders or anything. To me, it was tragedy and I was devastated,” she said in an interview on Tuesday, a day after the film’s premiere.

In the film directed by Jessica Hausner, new teacher Miss Novak (Wasikowska) leads a course on conscious eating for a group of teenage boarding school students with the goal of reaching “Club Zero” – when one gives up eating altogether.

Hausner said the film made clear to viewers that not eating made the students weaker and weaker.

“We understand that this is decay,” she said. “So I would say this is more a warning about stopping to eat or eating disorders or restricted eating more than the glorification.”

“Club Zero” includes a trigger warning for eating disorders and uses make-up to make the students appear weakened.

Despite the film’s surrealist look, which keeps Miss Novak’s message from being taken too seriously, it “is still destined to be labelled as ‘dangerous,'” trade publication IndieWire said.

At issue are scenes where the students begin to exceed at sports and school after they stop eating: “The scholarship kid’s grades go up, the gymnast is able to jump higher on the trampoline, and the over-involved parents who found Ms. Novak on the internet are happy enough with the results of her class — at least until something wholly unrelated triggers a sudden come-to-Jesus moment,” wrote IndieWire.

Britain’s The Guardian newspaper gave the film, which received a five-minute standing ovation after its premiere, two out of five stars and called it “exasperating and baffling.”

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—Reporting by Mindy Burrows and Miranda Murray; Editing by Richard Chang