Andermatt - Global Village, the portrait of a village in the grips of phenomenal change
by Giorgia Del Don
- Swiss director Leonidas Bieri’s debut feature film looks at the (monstrous) transformation of an alpine village in the grips of change that is as unexpected as it is worrying
Andermatt-Global Village [+see also:
film profile], which had its global premiere at DOK.fest in Munich, charts the (mis)adventures of the small ski resort of Andermatt, precariously balanced between a rural romantically legendary past, and an almost surreal future. Leonidas Bieri’s first feature film, which has been no less than six years in the making, seems to encapsulate a reality that is by now just a memory. During these long years of observation, the Zurich-born director managed to capture the conflicting emotions of those who experienced the changes first-hand, between uncertainty, euphoria and moments of profound doubt. The inhabitants, who have a personal link with their surroundings, try to calmly face a tomorrow that is gradually becoming more invasive, a foreign body on the verge of being rejected.
Ski lifts with conveniently heated seats, top-notch golf courses and disproportionately large hotels as luxurious as something out of Hollywood. This is generally speaking the future promised to Andermatt by Samih Sawiris, an Egyptian billionaire who has decided to turn this small and promising ski resort into the new St. Moritz, an idyllic spot in which to flaunt his riches to his heart’s content. Aware of their inability to move forwards (perhaps too attached to their small certainties to look to the future with an open mind) and scared that their village will become a ghost town swallowed up by the Alps, the inhabitants of Andermatt place their future in the hands of this man, who gradually seems to become a sort of guru. From the arrival of the first diggers to the opening of the first super luxurious hotel, Andermatt-Global Village records the thoughts and feelings of not only those who see the project as an easy way out, but of the sceptics too, who look past the splendour, sensing that they are being cheated. Of course Samih Sawiris’ magical village will generate profit, but at what cost? Is the loss of its personal identity not perhaps too high a price? These are the central questions of the film that torment the inhabitants of Andermatt.
Without daring to directly admit it, doubt takes ever-deeper root and euphoria gives way to deep and perverse dismay. What if the hope pinned on Sawiri is actually just naivety? Somewhere between a thriller and a coming-of-age film, Andermatt-Global Village takes us on a journey on the dangerous highways of doubt, an emotion which is hard to keep at bay and which returns in waves to torment the consciences of those who fear they have sold their souls to the devil. The tenacity with which Leonidas Bieri follows the transformation of Andermatt gives his film much welcome depth and sincerity. By focusing on the repercussions that this transformation has on both the landscape and the inhabitants, Bieri highlights the indissoluble link between them, as if the metamorphosis of one has immediate and fatal repercussions on the other. The microcosm of Andermatt becomes, to some extent, the symbol of an entire mentality, the Swiss mentality, which sees change and the unknown as a frenemy that is still too unfamiliar. This is a film that reveals a lot more about Switzerland that was perhaps intended. Profound and surprising.
Andermatt-Global Village is being sold internationally by DOCMINE Productions.
(Translated from Italian)