Review: Chris the Swiss
by Giorgia Del Don
- CANNES 2018: Anja Kofmel sensitively and clearly tells the story of her cousin, who died in mysterious circumstances during the Croatian War of Independence
Like two hands belonging to the same restless individual, documentary and animation (genre in which the director graduated from the prestigious Hochscule, Design & Kunst in Lucerne), dancing a melancholic and desperate pasodoble.
If the first genre is immediately evident, a free channel to tell a personal story with uncertain implications, the second, hidden beneath the surface, also proves to be indispensable. Compared to the impossibility of using images to fill the void left by a story that the director experienced only indirectly (through discussions with her parents when she was a child, and more recently thanks to the testimonies of those who remain, and the few pages of her cousin's diary), it is through animation that she touches the heart of her subject.
And it's right in the moments in which Chris the Swiss leaves behind the cold analysis of an absurd dynamic trajectory to dive into the memories and feelings of the director (via a series of characters and dreamy places full of impalpable emotions, impossible to express verbally) that the film gains its strength. Anja Kofmel's point of view and the parasitic feelings that have accompanied her cousin's figure since her childhood clash with the brutality of archival images (Chris's corpse in the morgue, abandoned bodies in the streets of Sarajevo) and awaken in the viewer an immense sense of indignation and shame.
How could all this happen? How could no one have prevented such a massacre? What is really hidden behind this absurdity? There are many (uncomfortable) questions that Chris tried to answer, guided by a certain naivety and stupefaction that proved to be fatal. How could a Swiss journalist find himself caught up in a "dirty" conflict (as numerous witnesses and former colleagues describe it) such as the one he decided to dive headfirst into? Is it possible that his idealism was so obtuse that it led him straight to the gallows, a captive prisoner of a group of crazy and egomaniac mercenaries?
Through a meticulous and courageous investigation that intertwines facts and misdeeds, sensations and the foreboding (brought to life by mysterious shadow creatures that emerge from nowhere, swallowing everything they encounter on their way) Chris the Swiss highlights the contagious folly that devours the hearts and brains of those who experience war first-hand. Although Chris didn't touch down in Sarajevo as a novice, the reality that presented itself before his eyes: corrupt and senseless, prevailed over his idealism, turning it into a sort of suicidal instinct.
Chris the Swiss starts off with a personal story that highlights something universal: ambiguity and the brutal need to exist (carried by an ideology that turns into a pretext) that lives in each of us, in good but above all in evil. A real questioning of what makes us (despite everything) human.
(Translated from Italian)
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