Europe, She Loves: An ode to fragility and imperfection
by Giorgia Del Don
- BERLIN 2016: The latest feature film by Swiss filmmaker Jan Gassmann opens the Panorama Dokumente section of the Berlinale
Jan Gassmann, the director of the highly personal Chrigu [+see also:
film profile] (which won the Ecumenical Jury Prize at Berlin), returns to the German capital to present the world premiere of his latest documentary, Europe, She Loves [+see also:
interview: Jan Gassmann
film profile], which opened the Panorama Dokumente section of the Berlinale this year.
Europe, She Loves takes a step back from the noisy racket that surrounds Europe, buried in its never-ending problems, to listen to it in silence. The sounds it captures are as simple as they are meaningful, signs of a humanity that doesn’t seem (despite everything) to have yet been lost. This change of course that replaces the political with the personal allows us to (re)discover good old Europe, to focus on its heartbeat, according to which it has seemed dangerously close to a heart attack as of late.
Through the story of four couples living on Europe’s borders, from the extreme north (Tallinn and Dublin) to the extreme south (Thessaloniki and Seville), Jan Gassmann ventures into that mysterious territory that is love. A fleeting feeling so full of clichés that it has almost been banished from the documentary genre. Fortunately this young Swiss director is not short on bravery, and succeeds in getting up close and personal with his protagonists without being afraid of portraying an at times uncomfortable reality. The result is a surprisingly heterogeneous patchwork of feelings that seem to survive despite the precarity and countless worries plaguing Europe. Like Europe, the protagonists of Europe, She Loves live and breathe fragility: economic fragility but also and above all, emotional fragility, in search of a refuge that only seems to materialise when they’re together, united by their mutual imperfections. What is love? Where does it hide? But above all, how does it survive the anguish of everyday life? Like a potholer, Jan Gassmann sets off in search of that spark of passion that warms us in spite of everything, and finds it in small everyday gestures, those that transform a moment into eternity. The Zurich-born director’s camera lingers on the seemingly mundane moments in every couple’s lives: the care taken to fill two coffee cups to the exact same level, sharing a camp bed in a room that still looks like it belongs to teenagers, to show their strength, the harmony that (unwittingly) stands defiant in the face of a crisis, in silence.
Instead of force-feeding us a series of “biographical” details straight away, Jan Gassmann walks us through the lives of his protagonists. Their concerns: the need to find a job, to make a reconstructed family work harmoniously, to distance themselves from drugs, seem to hover above their lives as a couple, like a black cloud that surprisingly dissipates under the covers, with skin on skin contact, familiar and reassuring. The travelling, a sort of postcard of pictures that take us from one city to another or accompany the protagonists when they’re alone, is an open space in which they can deposit their anguish. The music, which is interrupted from time to time by the words of a TV news reporter, plays over the images: in Dublin there’s talk of the Greek crisis, in Greece immigration is the hot topic, everywhere is stifling. And it is in this very heavy atmosphere that love turns to oxygen. And so the protagonists of Europe, She Loves take the little breaths they need to avoid hyperventilating. But for how long?
Autlook Filmsales is handling international sales of the film.
(Translated from Italian)