Fredi M. Murer Retrospective
As Twins—Worlds that Connect and Cross through Cinema Fredi M. Murer
Place of Encounter—Discovering Two Fimmakers through Yamagata Jean-François Guerry
Supported by the Embassy of Switzerland in Japan
Passages, or the Opening Up of our Bodily Sensations
Born in German-speaking Switzerland, Fredi M. Murer (1940–) is known as a leader of the internationally-acclaimed Swiss Nouveau Cinema movement that was active from the late 1960s through the 1980s, together with Daniel Schmid and Alain Tanner. Of note in Murer’s oeuvre is Alpine Fire (1985), set in an isolated mountain range. The film—awarded the Golden Leopard Prize at the Locarno International Film Festival—depicts incest between a brother and sister, as well as the tragedy that eventually befalls them. Japan has only seen commercial distribution of Murer’s subsequent narrative films such as Full Moon (1998)—a critique of Swiss society that takes up a modern tale of being spirited away—and Vitus (2006), which was selected to represent Switzerland for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Murer’s experimental films and documentaries, however, have had little exposure in Japan, except at two retrospectives, one at Studio 200 and one at the Athénée Français Cultural Center in 1986.
Depending on the period in which they were made, Murer’s works may be classified variously as experimental film, documentary, or narrative film. The thread that unites them across genre, subject matter, and territory, is their filmic investigation into the limits and possibilities of communication. People peer into the distance through binoculars and enlarge objects with magnifying lenses. They open their bodies to the world, feeling the trembling of the ground with their skin, through gestures and cutaneous sensations that are by no means confined to language. In this moment, the artist in the film (Chicory, Bernhard Luginbühl, Sad-is-Fiction) is he, the filmmaker, as well as we who watch. Ever still, the space framed by grim mountains (We Mountain People in the Mountains, The Green Mountain) is a small hamlet in the Swiss Alps, while at the same time it is surely related to the collectives of Yamagata and Magino Village depicted by Ogawa Shinsuke, with whom Murer had a friendly association. In fact, Ogawa thought of his own works as twins to those of Murer. Before thinking about the unique identities of the communities these directors represent, though, perhaps we should consider the bodies and spirits that resonate with one other beyond the reach of borders and nations. We can, in particular, sense the world opening up in front of us through the portrayal of the society and culture of farmers living on the frontier in Murer’s “mountain trilogy.”
In making this special screening a reality, we received the full support of Fredi M. Murer himself. We would like to express both our heartfelt respect and our deepest thanks to him.