In the spirit of the 2011 German mini-series Dreileben (which included segments from Christian Petzold, Christoph Hochhausler, and Dominik Graf), in which a trio of perspectives examine a genre-infused narrative set in one particular neighborhood, a new four part Swiss series, “Shock Waves,” aims to examine true crime cases through studied reenactments. The series kicks off with a high profile offering from Ursula Meier with Shock Waves – Diary of Mind, which recounts a brutal account of parricide in 2009, while a student and the flabbergasted French teacher he’s chosen as an emotional life raft attempt to navigate an impossible aftermath. The second contribution is the latest offering from Swiss director Lionel Baier, Shock Waves – First Name: Mathieu, and takes place in the late 80s, when a serial rapist and murder terrorized Switzerland (the other two segments, from Frederic Mermoud and Jean-Stephone Bron, were not included in the Berlin Film Festival’s program). The case is told through the fabricated story of an imaginary survivor, a young man whose interrupted trajectory leads to an obsessive need to speak with his assailant.
Diary of My Mind – ★★★/☆☆☆☆☆
Meier’s chapter follows a similar pattern to her two previous narrative films, such as the Cesar nominated Home (2008) and her highly lauded Sister (2012) in that a notable French leading lady (previously Huppert and Lea Seydoux, respectively) is the focal point in a situation involving Meier’s favored spice, Kacey Mottet Klein (who also recently appeared in Techine’s Being 17, 2016). In a scenario similar to Shawn Ku’s 2010 title Beautiful Boy, responsible adults who ‘should have seen it coming’ are left to face their own guilty demons, as expertly portrayed by the vibrant Fanny Ardant as Esther, who finds herself accosted by a self-righteous judge (Jean-Philippe Ecoffey) and questioned for the type of literature she’d been recommending to the troubled Benjamin. Meier swings a bit heavy-handed when the boy’s lawyer (Stephanie Blanchoud) comes along and swiftly denounces Esther and her complicity in the murders, and when things get a bit more interesting (the story suddenly veers ahead six years before its trailing finale), Diary of My Mind takes its leave of its two troubled souls.
First Name: Mathieu – ★★½/☆☆☆☆☆
A bit less familiarly defined is Lionel Baier’s odyssey into Michel Piery, “the sadist of Romont,” who was a high profile news item from 1981 to 1987. Baier reimagines his pursuit through the eyes of a survivor, Mathieu (Maxime Gorbatchevsky), whose attempts to return to normalcy following a savage rape and near death experience at the hands of Piery are nearly impossible. Unable to speak with his parents or younger brother, his significant psychological and sexual turmoil leads to meager attempts at reaching out, including with an ill-equipped coach. Sadly, the only real solace he receives is in the form of a painstaking investigator (Michel Vuillermoz), who is baffled at why the young man is so eager to speak with the man who nearly killed him after he’s apprehended. An ambient soundtrack from Christian Garcia (mixed garishly with wafts of pop tunes, like “Walking on Sunshine”) assists in the right kind of mood, and it’s an interesting conversation piece with Meier’s segment as it switches from victimizer to victimized. Again, as with Meier, some interesting complexities seem thwarted by the purposefully demure and efficient running time.
Reviewed on February 20th at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival – Panorama Special Program. 70/60 mins.