Zurich: An enigmatic character on an errant journey of despair
by Lynn Klein
- BERLIN 2015: Sacha Polak's latest movie, following Hemel, is in the Forum section at Berlin and paints a two-part portrait of an intriguing woman who wishes she were free
Dutch director Sacha Polak, whose first feature film, Hemel [+see also:
interview: Sacha Polak
film profile], picked up the FIPRESCI Prize at Berlin three years ago, has returned to this year's festival with her newest feature, Zurich [+see also:
film profile], in the Forum section. A co-production between Viking Film, A Private View and Rohfilm, Zurich follows the enigmatic character of Nina on an errant journey full of despair.
We don't know what happened to her, or why on earth she is standing in a river next to a car, facing a leopard. But the camera moves in on her and focuses on her torment during its two parts, Dog and Boris.
Nina seems to live in a microcosm consisting of truck stops and the road. She travels from place to place, in trucks or in a rented car, longing for intimacy and seemingly pining for a lost love. The film is quiet and contemplative, but her reluctance to open up to both her peers and the audience makes it difficult to be able to stand her. The dreamlike sequences reflect her struggle and her floating nature; she wishes she were free, both from her past and from her present, but she can't process it in order to let go.
The film is full of raw emotion, beautifully portrayed by Wende Snijders. She put her heart and soul into Nina, which is lucky, since the whole movie depends on her being able to convince her audience. The camera doesn't let go of her, firmly putting all her despair, affection and laughter on display. While she is capable of intriguing the viewer, the plot jumps from encounter to encounter, thereby running the risk of losing their engagement. There are no answers to the many questions that Nina's actions throw up until the second half of the film. Her seemingly random acts and emotions are difficult to follow and impossible to empathise with. However, the second part – Boris – goes on to give the audience the much-needed context they were waiting for. It suddenly all makes sense, and it turns out it was worth waiting for.
As a musical road-trip film, its soundtrack perfectly underlines the plot. The words in the songs reflect Nina's struggle and elevate the movie to another level. Finally, everything falls into place, and the open ending intertwines with the beginning.