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Michael W. Driesch
Peter Gilbert Cotton,
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It is said (or at least was at the screening attended) that Sennentuntschi is Switzerland's first genre film. One hope that they make more, for its quite a cracker. It draws upon a little used myth (I can think of maybe one other film that makes use of it) of lonely Alpine shepherds who sew a lady companion out of straw and cloth. By and by the lady comes to life, loves them and keeps their home, until she falls out of favours and takes her vengeance. Things are a bit more complicated than that here though, with a strange and silent lady (Roxanne Mesquida) coming to a village from the mountains and immediately arousing superstitions. Local inspector Reusch is on her side, but something bad is afoot, and events in the village are parallelled by the affairs of a moutainside shepherd, his son and a city man who joins them. The film is quite a slow burner, focused on the slowly boiling drama of its characters and the tensions between superstition and reason, religion and modernity, man and woman, primal and tamed. Set in 1975 when there were still places in the Alps caught in older times, there's a convincing sense of removal from reality and rustic unease, quiet disquiet that works well with the sublime locations, crisply shot by Pascal Walder. Solid performances across the board give the film an effective dramatic tone, Nicholas Ofczarek giving the character of Reusch a sense of earnest dedication tinged with affecting romantic, longing, Andrea Zogg bringing righteous fire to his powerful priest character and Roxanne Mesquida especially good in her silent role as the rumoured Sennentuntschi, conveying feral grace and danger with an edge of primal humanity. Things come to a head in nicely intense and fairly shocking fashion with a cruelly punching final block, although a slightly tricksy approach to the narrative dilutes the ultimate effect. All in all its a quality and worthwhile watch, though not as potent as it could be. It takes a little too long to really come aflame I think, while things are ultimately satisfying there isn't so much suspense in earlier scenes. And for all the interesting oppositions the film brings up with its narrative, it doesn't really end up saying anything particularly interesting, though never less than satisfying entertainment its standard genre film mechanics do slightly sap its underlying interest. Still recommended though, 7/10
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