Two couples, one baby
by Emmanuel Cuénod
- A thriller and waking nightmare about an infant stolen along with its parents' car.
It would be easy to argue that the main character in Lullaby Ride [+see also:
interview: Christoph Schaub
film profile], Swiss German director Christoph Schaub's latest feature, is paradoxically the one that we see the less on screen. And for a very good reason: This character is an infant that we will only see sleep, smile, or cry. All ordinary actions, if it weren't for their context. Stolen at the same time as his parents' car after he falls asleep there, the film's baby will unexpectedly be taken on a ride into the night by a couple of runaway marginals, pursued by his distraught and frantic parents, themselves hunted by a gangster with unclear intentions.
Present throughout the film from its opening credits to its final shots, this quasi-absent character is key in a plot devised by successful novelist Martin Suter, who already wrote the notable Giulia's Disappearance [+see also:
interview: Christoph Schaub
film profile] for Schaub. The narrative is skillful, as the simplicity and universality of Lullaby Ride's plot allow the director to avoid long scenes and focus instead on the subject that really interests him here: the ruthless mechanics that transform a couple into a family, to the sound of the repeated cries of a "new arrival".
In this waking nightmare, whose action can be both evanescent and hysterical, Christoph Schaub also subtly explores the darkest corners of the human soul. Overwhelmed by his son's crying, the father will actually say that he understands "those who shake their babies". Enraged against her husband, the mother will accuse him of many things, even of having wanted to get rid of a child that he never wanted. Ahead of them, a couple of criminals - the film's Bonnie and Clyde - symbolise another type of violence, that of passion. It necessarily leads to a dead-end, in the script's purely Darwinian logic, in which only that which reproduces itself can survive long term.
The film's efficiency, announced by its length (exactly 92 minutes, all in motion), remains one of its great qualities. By ensuring that practically all the characters' -- sometimes heavy -- psychology is translated into continuous action, the Schaub-Suter duo manage to avoid falling into a purely societal treatment of the subject. On the contrary! Neither truly social film nor pure thriller, Lullaby Ride instead transforms itself with each of its numerous twists in the plot, literally taking the viewer hostage, as if they were themselves this innocent infant, whose uncertain destiny seems capable of changing at each new leg of the journey. It's a feeling that Locarno festival-goers, who discovered the title on the Piazza Grande's giant outdoor screen, no doubt savoured for an hour and a half.