Democracy reveals the hidden side of the impersonal European Parliament
by Giorgia Del Don
- David Bernet’s film surprises audiences at the Solothurn Film Festival with both its form and content
Democracy [+see also:
interview: David Bernet
film profile] by Swiss director David Bernet, which is in the running for the prestigious Prix de Soleure, seeks to do the impossible: to give not only credibility, but also a touch of glamour back to that complex contraption that is the European Parliament.
The issue that David Bernet has decided to broach is certainly not one of the most appetising or sexy. Pinning down (in this case pinning the eye of the camera on) that complex mechanism that is the European Parliament requires an excellent ability to summarise and a new, dynamic perspective capable of perceiving the small sparks of humanity feeding a fire that seems to have all but died out. The angle of attack chosen by the director: the thorny and big yet intriguing issue of data protection, allows him, to a certain extent, to sugarcoat the pill right from the start.
For two and a half years, David Bernet followed the legislative procedure of the Parliament, ending up with a fascinating documentary that resembles an instruction manual showing us how to navigate the twists and turns of a completely inaccessible world. The schemes, successes and failures that give life to the walls of the European Parliament seem to magically take shape before our eyes, breathing life back into that mysterious pachyderm that parasites in the centre of Brussels. Through the daily routine of young MEP Jean Philipp Albrecht and his lively team supported by the just as charismatic commissioner Viviane Reding, David Bernet takes us behind the scenes of a world that is for many a fantasy one. The constant coming and going between the inside (the labyrinthine rooms of the Parliament) and outside worlds, between public and private, that lies at the centre of the debate on data protection, consistently dominates the film.
If on the one hand the white and black of the images make the reality portrayed by the film less palpable, more impersonal, the brief moments of “normality” that worm their way into the legislative machine – the act of absent-mindedly eating a sandwich, of awkwardly trying to tie your tie – bring us back to a frighteningly real portrayal of humanity. Whilst he “spies”, touches and gets a feel for the goings-on within the Parliament, David Bernet never once forgets to bring us back to our own everyday reality with noises floating in through the windows, sunlight streaming into the building and heating up the rooms, and life itself. As opposed to engaging in mass surveillance, which Jean Philipp Albrecht is against, and doesn’t take account of our individual specificities, the director’s eye tries to pin down individuality within a mechanism that’s too complex to seem real. The viewer is surprisingly caught up by the buzz, excitement and fear of failure felt by Albrecht and his clan, sharing their doubts, hopes and dreams for a European democracy that finally seems (nearly) within reach. David Bernet avoids falling into the trap of vulgarization, bringing us an unexpected, intelligent and extremely compassionate film.
(Translated from Italian)