– BERLINALE 2022: Michael Koch’s second feature is an alpine mountain melodrama, sprinkled with strange musical interludes
The Swiss Alps have a particular resonance in the popular imagination, synonymous with placidity, beauty and remoteness, but they are less associated with cinema – especially if James Bond hurtling down their slopes does not count. But the Swiss actor turned director Michael Koch attempted to demystify the Alps with A piece of sky [+see also:
film profile]his first film in the Berlinale competition after his debut, Marija [+see also:
interview: Michael Koch
film profile], played in Locarno. Similar to many arthouse directors before him, his keen gaze on this region finds a community clinging to tradition and bewildered by modernity, through which we focus on a romantic bond defined by turbulent miscommunication. . During the awards ceremony on Wednesday, he received a special mention from the competition jury (see the news).
Koch’s aim is to show us a version of the Alps undermining the typical, kitsch imagery of crystalline lakes and calmly grazing cattle. But as we grasp the film’s structural form, it strays too far from its social world, into a relationship drama plagued by almost arbitrary obstacles, and A piece of sky finds itself in a cul-de-sac of misery, albeit filmed from what looks like Mount Olympus.
We begin with a cute encounter, in a naively classic sense, although the boy is a man-mountain of a farmhand, his white overalls have turned gray with sweat, and the girl is a taciturn bartender, gazing intently at the frothy beers that ‘She pays for the furloughed workers of her mother’s tavern. It’s Mark (Simon Wislera real farmer leading a group of non-professionals) and Anna (Michele Mark, who trained as an architect), and they’re going to get started. Their relationship has an invigorating carnality at first: the opening act shows Anna giving Marco a near-lap dance to a strutting rock song, once his older farm colleagues leave the scene. A foreground of the men awkwardly trying to raise a bull and a cow outside the farm finds its rhyme, as the two have sex outdoors on a hill. It is an Eden mite, with the tragedy that ensues, the closest thing to a snake.
Soon, Marco is acting unpredictably and can barely stand. it turns out that he has developed a brain tumor and surgery is needed. But that doesn’t eliminate Marco’s erratic behavior further, resulting in an ambiguous interaction with Anna’s daughter from a past relationship. The very local atmosphere, with disapproving friends, neighbors and co-workers watching over their troubles, combined with desperate plot twists, givesA piece of sky a soap opera sense you don’t think Koch is courting. And then, as Marco and Anna renew their devotion to each other, amid the wreckage of their initial love, you can’t help but remember Lars von Trier’s. Break the wavesbut without Lars’ love of irony, always aware of how these scenarios can circumvent the cliché.
Koch chooses not to use non-diegetic music, but his strategy when he wants to incorporate tunes is telling. First, we have a choir perched on the grassy slopes, intoning hymns that act like a Greek choir to events. A Bollywood music crew comes to film on location halfway through, in a jarring change of tone, and is never mentioned again. The two examples bear witness to this film’s desire to surprise and to be new, but also to the lack of fully convincing us.
A piece of sky is a Swiss-German co-production directed by Hugofilm Productions, Pandora Filmproduction, SRF – Swiss Radio and Fernsehen, SSR SSR and ARTE Germany. New Europe Film Sales is in charge of its international sales.
Photo gallery 02/14/2022: Berlinale 2022 – A piece of sky
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