ArteKino Festival: Those Who Are Fine Review
How much humanity do we risk losing as we delve ever deeper into a world controlled by technology? It’s hardly a question that breaks new ground, but it is one given a fresh twist by young Swiss director Cyril Schäublin in Those Who Are Fine (Dene wos guet geit). It’s a debut effort that looks at the alienation of modern society in a technological age, turning present day Zurich into a place reminiscent of a 70s sci-fi film.
The story starts off as something of a myth, with a woman recalling the tale of Alice (Sarah Stauffer), who works for a company called Everywhere Switzerland selling health insurance and internet packages. Her job involves cold calling customers – mostly the old and vulnerable – which she uses to target people for a financial scam. Alice pleads for funds by pretending to be their granddaughter, which a number of elderly women are generally happy to hand over. She then arranges to meet them in person, saying she is a friend of their granddaughter there to collect the money, before walking away with as much as €30,000 in cash.
Schäublin’s short, 81 minute story weaves around Alice’s rip-off plan, partly following her routine and that of the police assigned to investigate the con. Her blank expression shows no emotion at all, reflecting the cold, distant environment seen through Silvan Hillmann’s alien-like cinematography. The two detectives slowly following the clues on the case constantly seem to have their heads stuck in their mobiles, with very little care given to the victims to offer any sense of humanity or comfort.
Everywhere Switzerland’s internet packages are discussed almost everywhere we look, including a group of heavily armed police officers checking passers-by following a nearby bomb threat. Conversations are dominated by numbers, passwords and co-ordinates, and even a doctor and his assistant rely more on the data on their tablet than who the patients are as human beings. Schäublin pushes the point to absurdity until it becomes dryly funny watching the detachment of human life from the real world stated so factually.
The visuals work in tandem with the shallow conversations, the city becoming a claustrophobic space harshly drained of light and filled with dense, murky colours. Schäublin turns inanimate objects like metal rubbish bins, traffic light buttons and ID scanners into strange objects that have just been planted into civilisation. Inventive use of modernist architecture completely changes your perception of the buildings and the spaces around them, many of which feel dystopian and imposing due to the simple composition of the shot.
There is an odd elegance to the way Schäublin has so clearly defined his world. The point is made clearly enough so it cannot be avoided, delivering it with intelligence and an all important splash of humour to make it all the more palatable. Those Who Are Fine is clinical in its approach and specifically designed to throw you off guard with its uncompromising style. Yet it possess its own kind of hypnotism that places you firmly under its spell.
You can watch Those Who Are Fine as part of the ArteKino Festival by visiting their website between December 1-31st.