News from the Locarno Festival

Jean-Stéphane Bron

Jean-Stéphane Bron



Jean-Stéphane Bron, what made you decide to make a documentary on a politician as controversial as Christopher Blocher?
After Cleveland contre Wall Street, which was about a trial, and went to the heart of the sub-prime crisis, I wanted to make a film about the consequences of that crisis. A film which would be a kind of follow-up to Mais im Bundeshuus, revisiting the arena of politics and democracy, some years later. What had changed? It was also the time the federal election campaign was just starting, with the polls predicting massive victory for the UDC in the coming elections. I thought it was time that film, with all the means it has at its disposal, took on Christoph Blocher, the historical and hitherto unchallenged leader of that  party.

What was your image of Christoph Blocher, then, and afterwards, and did it change?
Apart from a political judgment, the image I had of him was that which anyone might have got from reading the papers, listening to the radio, or watching TV. But for me, all that matters is the image produced by the film. And that image is built up, constructed over the course of 100 minutes, in what is visible in the film, but also in what lies beneath, the more obscure aspects. But I think your real question is: is this really a construction? Or is it a deconstruction?

On the one hand, the danger of lapsing into caricature. On the other, the danger of turning Blocher into a hero. What point of view did you adopt to avoid these pitfalls?
Making this film was a matter of trying to work out a challenge that was both human and political. What kind of distance was needed  to film a man whose ideas I did not share? And what perspective to take on someone who I wanted, despite that ideological gap, to probe in depth. For the film’s subject, in the end, is a man’s unconscious, what drives him, shapes him. His passions, convictions, contradictions. In drawing on tropes from fiction, and at times from genre films, I wanted to give a fable-like dimension to this story. But I also sought to contextualize Christoph Blocher within a larger story. In his own way, he is part of the major changes of the era, of capitalism and its violence, of democracy.

It seems that several auteur filmmakers of your generation want to deal with political issues, but with a less dogmatic approach than that of previous generations. What’s your position on this?
Perhaps that’s so. What is incontrovertible is that a rupture occurred in the 1980s and 90s that saw the advent of a focus on the more personal, investigating the private realm, the family unit, the body, illness, thanks to the revolution of small digital cameras which allowed exploration of new territories, new processes, and over long periods of time. It was definitely a desire to break with a more directly militant kind of cinema, but it also reflected a real tendency in society: the end of collective utopias, the triumph of the individual. Nowadays, there is clearly a new aspect to politics, a reconfiguration in new forms, quite simply because it is a new era and there are new issues at stake. That gives rise to films which are rediscovering the political gesture, but which are also fed by this more individually oriented approach to cinema. « L’expérience Blocher » is part of this tendency.

With Mais im Bundeshuus (Le Génie helvétique), you made a fable-like thriller about the back corridors of power, examining an episode in Swiss parliamentary politics. Now, with L’Expérience Blocher, might the Swiss case once again become universal, and resonate beyond national borders?
Maybe the answer lies in the film itself. But what can be said with certainty is that it leaves viewers free to make up their own minds. And that it can be read on different levels. There is certainly a mirror effect for the Swiss. So yes, the story of Christoph Blocher tells us something about our era.

Lorenzo Buccella

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