It’s the present and the sun is shining in the Swiss Alps; the scenery is absolutely breathtaking—you can almost taste the sweet mountain air. A young girl in braids is foraging for mushrooms. She finds a beautiful toadstool with white spots on a brilliant red cap. She scoops it up and takes it to her mother. “Is this a good one?” she asks? “No honey,” her mother replies. “The beautiful ones are always poisonous.” I suspect she’s not just talking about mushroom.
Sennentuntschi is a folklore based Swiss Horror movie written by Stephanie Japp, Michael Sauter, and Michael Steiner (who also directs).
Read my review after the jump.
Official Synopsis: An Alpine legend tells the story of three lonely herdsmen who were so starved of female companionship they built the girl of their dreams from a broom, some straw and a few rags. Then the Devil took pity and made Sennentuntschi live and breathe… This fable informs the first ever shocker from Switzerland, a complex and twisted tale of past crimes, tragic love, ghostly encounters, horrendous murder, unexplained suicide and sexual enslavement. Continually surprising, brilliantly directed and superbly acted, this unusual and beguiling mystery chiller finally puts Switzerland on the genre map.
Flashback to 1975. Setting: A close-knit village high in the Alps. The suicide of a priest is seen as negative omen, a harbinger of impending doom. The residents have only one term for the darkness they sense encroaching upon their isolated hamlet: The Devil. When a wild, almost feral young woman shows up immediately following the priest’s burial, people are suspicious and fearful in the extreme. She’s filthy, mute, and dressed in rags. Yet even beneath mud and matted hair, her beauty is undeniably stunning.
The Woman (Roxane Masquida) immediately finds herself at the center of several dramas. While just about everyone in the village would be happy to run her back into the wilderness, lovelorn policeman Sebastian Reusch (Nicholas Ofczarek) is compelled to protector her, heal her, and return her to her family. She quickly fills an immense void in his life, and both seem utterly enamored. His search for answers, however, turns up some troubling mysteries and opens old wounds. When someone is suddenly stricken, Reusch must risk everything to protect the Woman from mob justice.
Meanwhile, several kilometers away in a remote lodge and secret distillery, three inebriated hunters reenact the Sennentuntschi ritual while in the throes of an absinthe haze. When The Woman shows up the next morning, scared and seeking refuge, rational minds quickly give in to primal desires an impossible fantasies. Is the Woman the real Sennentuntschi and, if so, is she there to satiate their lonely passions? The lodge is soon a tinderbox of jealousy, possessiveness, and drunken confrontations. As two men descend into madness, she makes a tender connection to the third, the youngest: Albert (Joel Basman), also a mute. As The Woman struggles to navigate physical and sexual dangers, she hopes and prepares for Reusch to rescue her.
Sennentuntschi is a truly amazing and beautiful piece of cinema, haunting and compelling. Even when the action disturbed me, I was constantly dazzled by the timeless alpine beauty encapsulating everything. This is a movie about past secrets and secret desires in a community that seems to have changed little in the past few centuries. It’s fascinating how quickly the townsfolk are to believe in the supernatural, which is clearly a condemnation of religious suppression and outdated, repressive superstitions.
Similar to Thale, a recent film from Scandinavia that dealt with the obscure legend of the Huldra (another captivating creature), Sennentuntschi is an awesome modernization of European folklore that confronts past and current societal mores regarding female sexuality. (Aspects of this film are sure to rile sensitive feminists.) It’s also a lesson in history repeated where ghosts can still manipulate the living.
Sennentuntschi is a treat for Horror fans, but completely accessible to all fans of drama and foreign cinema. No cheap scares, no ridiculous gore or splatter, just truly engrossing storytelling. The production is outstanding in all respects. It’s not necessarily an easy film to process; it’s long, complex, and at times feels disjointed. But rest assured, if you find yourself struggling to make all the pieces fit, that just means you’re paying attention. Put your faith in the masterful writing and expect just about all questions to be illuminated in the film’s final chapters.
Sennentuntschi is smart, original, and beautiful as fuck.
4 out of 5 Skull Heads.
|starring||Roxane Mesquida, Nicholas Ofczarek, Andrea Zogg, Joel Basman, Carlos Leal|