Mia Wasikowska brainwashes students in Cannes entry Club Zero

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MIA WASIKOWSKA in a scene from Club Zero.

CANNES — Onetime Hollywood rising star Mia Wasikowska was at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday for the premiere of Club Zero, which stars the Australian actress as a manipulative teacher and is director Jessica Hausner’s second try at winning a Palme d’Or.

Club Zero is Vienna-born Ms. Hausner’s second film to be in the running for the film festival’s top prize, after 2019’s Little Joe that marked her English-language debut.

In the film, new teacher Miss Novak (Wasikowska) leads a course on conscious eating for a group of teenage boarding school students that asks them to make increasingly drastic changes to their eating habits, with the goal of reaching Club Zero.

Miss Novak uses vaguely spiritual chanting and meditation to draw them into a cult-like group whose members police each other’s eating habits and, eventually, whether they eat at all.

“She truly believes that she is saving them and together they take it too far,” said Ms. Hausner.

“That is what makes her so convincing and so dangerous: Her belief meets the wish of the young people to change the world and increases the dangerous inclination towards developing eating disorders for some of them,” added the director.

Club Zero is the latest in a series of independent films that Ms. Wasikowska has signed onto in the past few years.

The Australian actor’s star was on the rise with movies including Tim Burton’s 2010 Alice in Wonderland and 2015’s Crimson Peak but in the late 2010s she decided to move back to Sydney.

She told the IndieWire trade publication in March that working back-to-back projects had left her burnt out. “I want to do more things in life other than be in a trailer,” she said. — Reuters