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SOLOTHURN 2019

Review: Zwingli

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- Stefan Haupt brings the reformer Huldrych Zwingli back to life, one of the most emblematic historical figures that Switzerland has ever known

Review: Zwingli
Max Simonischek in Zwingli

In competition for the Audience Award at Solothurn Film Festival, Zwingli [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by Stefan Haupt gifts us a "diabolically beautiful" historical reconstruction (as the film has been defined) Huldrych Zwingli’s life, a film reminiscent of Braveheart and inspired by Zeffirelli 

Five years after the award-winning The Circle [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Stefan Haupt
film profile
]
, the Swiss director Stefan Haupt returns to explore the history of Switzerland, and this time he’s chosen do to so through a complex and revolutionary character: the Zurich reformer Huldrych Zwingli. 

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Although The Circle and Zwingli are worlds apart in terms of time period (the end of the 1950s versus the beginning of the sixteenth century respectively) and theme (the fight for gay rights versus the fight to practice faith as one pleases), both films convey fairly similar values. In fact, what unites them, and what runs through many of the Swiss director’s films, is a visceral need for freedom: of thought, of sexual orientation, of belief and the rejection of all forms of obtuse dogmatism. A freedom that is too often dissociated (in our shared imagination) from Swiss reality, which has inevitably become reduced to a mass of clichéd beliefs that are much more closed-off and unchanging than they are open-minded. And yet, Stefan Haupt remembers, and reminds us, that a revolutionary wind, a brilliant glimmer of hope once had repercussions that reached far beyond the confederation's boundaries. 

Brought to life by a very apt Max Simonischek (who is currently in a number of Swiss productions, such as The Divine Order [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Petra Volpe
film profile
]
by Petra Volpe, which is also about a precise moment in Swiss history), impressive thanks to his stature and restless yet extremely reassuring gaze, Stefan Haupt's Zwingli is as Franciscan as he is provocative, ethereal but also terribly of the earth. It's impossible not to be seduced by the calm determination of a character so completely inhabited by his ideals. 

A true humanist, a sort of bridge builder between the word of God and his faithful men, Zwingli’s work made him famous all over the world. From a Zurich-based liberal who was able to conquer thanks to his determination and sharp wit, the Swiss reformer launched into a real crusade against the powerful men of his time, denouncing every injustice perpetrated in the name of a divine word that was biblically unfounded. 

What Zwingli, and particularly Stefan Haupt's Zwingli puts forward is the need to stimulate the minds of the faithful so that the true essence of sacred texts can penetrate the social system, thus freeing it from the gangrene of corruption. Intelligence, in short, is the key to freeing oneself from the yoke of dangerous religious dogma. A lesson that still seems to be terribly relevant a good five hundred years later ("celibate priests will still be around in five hundred years," says ones of Zwingli's disciples).

A 5.7 million Swiss Franc production, Zwingli is an aesthetically powerful film thanks to its sobriety; credible without ever sensationalising its cruel historical context (the war and Zwingli’s death are briefly reported to his wife without us ever seeing what happened). A special mention goes out to Monika Schmid’s majestic costumes, which are perfectly in-keeping with the film and give it an almost mystical aura. 

Zwingli, produced by C-Films AG, Eikon Südwest GmbH e SRF Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen, and distributed internationally by Global Screen, was released in cinemas in the German canton on 17 January with Ascot Elite Entertainment Group and is due to be released in Romandy on 27 March.

(Translated from Italian)

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