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Review: (Im)mortels


- Lila Ribi's second touching feature film is a true declaration of love for her 100-year-old grandmother, an unforgettable character

Review: (Im)mortels

If, in a way, filming her grandmother over the years has enabled Swiss director Lila Ribi to get to know her better by taking possession of the smallest gestures that distinguish her, the result of this work entitled (Im)mortels allows this same image to shine far beyond the limited circle of those who were lucky enough to know her. Yes, because Greti (this is the name of Lila's grandmother) is a deeply moving character, complex but also extremely genuine, rich in a wisdom and fragility that seem to spring from Nature itself to which she is particularly attached.

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After taking her first step into the world of documentary filmmaking with the short film Spaghetti alle vongole presented at Visions du réel in Nyon and at the Locarno Film Festival in 2009, she continued in 2016 with her first feature film Silent Revolution (Visions du réel 2016 and Solothurn Film Festival 2017), Lila Ribi confirms with (Im)mortels, presented as a world premiere at the Solothurn Film Festival where she is competing for the Solothurn Prize, her great ability to establish a profound relationship with her characters based on observation and listening in search of something that goes beyond the image itself.

(Im)mortels is a film that unfolds in two parts: on the one hand it portrays the last years of the life of Greti, the protagonist's 100-year-old grandmother, and on the other it questions the mystery of death and the different perspectives on what comes after. It is precisely the answer to this question that distinguishes the grandmother from the granddaughter: if for the former there is nothing, for the latter the possibilities remain open. In a perfectly calibrated back and forth, the director juggles the portrait of her grandmother to whom she is very attached, having spent much of her childhood with her, with the discussions with the various "experts" on the subject: a pragmatic neuropsychiatrist by vocation, a medical psychologist in the palliative care department of a hospital who is in daily contact with everyone's beliefs and who stands on the borderline between science and personal convictions, a medium who received the gift of communicating with the dead after a car accident and a survivor who after a complicated birth experienced imminent death. All these characters, rich in their personal convictions, confide in front of the camera, creating a network of possibilities with respect to a subject that is considered taboo in Western society.

Without ever becoming heavy or lugubrious, (Im)mortels succeeds in the extraordinary feat of tinting the theme of death and the terror its mystery arouses with a lighter, more tender tone, thanks to the presence of Greti. Her pragmatism, not lacking in engaging humour, dispels all myths linked to age but also to gender. Like a "bizarre cat" (written on the front door of her house), the director's grandmother expresses herself in front of the camera without mincing her words, clinging to her idea of the "nothingness" that follows death to the last. Yet her modesty hides much more than what words express, which the camera takes care of revealing: the need to feed on the places that have always protected her, her little house in the country, her garden, her jams and chocolates, the fear of losing control over her body, the pain of memories.

Sincere and profound, the relationship between grandmother and granddaughter accompanies us throughout the film, making us hope for a chimerical eternity (of the body as we have always known it). And yet, despite Greta's departure, the love that unites them can never fade and this is perhaps the only certainty we need.

(Im)mortels is produced by Cornelia Seitler and Brigitte Hofer of Maximage GmbH Filmproduktion which also handles the international rights of the film.

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(Translated from Italian)

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