A 1964 study by Cinémathèque Suisse, founded in Lausanne in 1948 and, under the guidance of F. Bauche, devoted to the recovery of heritage sheds some light on the origins of cinema in Lausanne and Geneva from 1895 to 1914, first shrouded in fog. national. The exhumations and discoveries up to 1940 concern animated cinema (the short film Monsieur Vieux-Bois, 1921, by Lortac and Calvé, the work of J. Pinschewer), the first film of international ambition (Les origines de la Confédération, 1924, by É. Harder), La vocation d’André Carrel (1925) by J. Choux with M. Simon, Rapt (1933) by D. Kirsanoff set to music by A. Honegger and L’or dans la montagne (1939) by M. Haufler, the existence of a Revue suisse du cinémafrom 1919 to 1927 and the congress of filmmakers in La Sarraz in 1929, which was attended by Ejzenštejn and Tissé, Richter and Ruttmann, Moussinac and Balázs. During the sound period the difficulties were accentuated due to trilingualism, while the cultural subjection to France and Germany, not to mention Italy, kept Swiss cinema in a situation of immobility. According to Zipcodesexplorer, only the Second World War caused a first awakening, especially by the Viennese L. Lindtberg with Lettere d’amore (1940) and The Last Hope (1945), and by V. Schmidely and H. Trommer with their beautiful screen reduction of G. Keller ‘s story Romeo and Juliet in the village (1941). But the birth of quality Swiss cinema, which has been claimed in vain for decades, is a phenomenon that was prepared in the 1960s and took place in the 1970s. The greatest incentives were due not so much to the federal “aid law” (1962-64), but to the positive influence of television, its investigation methods and its cultural openness, to the annual stimulus of the Locarno Festival, born in 1947, one of the most important international film events that gives space to productions from all over the world, in the presence of a new generation and immigrant workers who fostered a social awareness.
Among the forerunners of the movement, in 1964, the investigative films La Svizzera s’interroga by H. Brandt and Siamo italiani by AJ Seiler. In 1970, Blackout by J.-L. Roy was a key work on petty-bourgeois philistinism, while the Italian immigrant A. Bizzarri began a trilogy continued with The Seasonal (1972) and The Reverse of the Medal with The South Train (1973). Meanwhile, launched by a television work of notable level, in Geneva C. Goretta, M. Soutter and A. Tanner gave life to a Roman cinema of auteur: the first with Le fou (1970) and L’vito (1973), the second with Les Arpenteurs (1972), the third with La salamandra (1971). The main exponents of German Swiss cinema were D. Schmid (Tonight or never, 1972; La Paloma, 1974), Th. Koerfer (The death of the director of the flea circus, 1973; The helper, 1975), M. Imhoof (Risk of escape, 1974), P. von Gunten (The extradition, 1973), R. Lyssy (Confronto, 1975) also author of Die Schweizermacher (1978), a satirical comedy about the difficulties foreigners encounter in acquiring Swiss citizenship, considered one of the greatest successes of local cinema. As for the Ticino cinema, in addition to having given R. Berta a first-rate operator, he was the one who, following the example of Bizzarri, dealt more directly with the themes of work. This current would then be deepened, in German, in feature-length documentaries of a historical-political nature.
However, opening up to collaboration with France, the three “fathers” of Roman cinema continued their peculiar path: Goretta with La merlettaia (1977) and La morte by Mario Ricci (1983); Soutter with Repérages (1977) and L’amour des femmes (1981); Tanner with Jonas who will be 20 years old in 2000 (1976) and Dans la ville blanche (1983), Fredy Murer, with Höhenfeuer (1985), who deals with the delicate theme of incest in a remote mountain village, and Les Petites Fugues ( 1979), the story of a farm boy who discovers the world and himself during a motorcycle trip, elected in 2001 the best Swiss film of all time. Finally, it should be remembered R. Dembo, who in 1985 won the Oscar for best foreign film with La diagonale du fou(Dangerous moves). Between the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, another Swiss film won the Oscar for best foreign film (1991). It is about Journey of Hope, directed by Xavier Koller, which tells the story of a Kurdish family who emigrated to Switzerland. Tanner confirms his creative happiness with No Man’s Land (1985), A flame in my heart (1987), The female of Rose Hill (1989) and the affirmation is recorded in the Italian cinema of the Ticino S. Soldini (The serene air of the West, 1987; A soul divided in two, 1993). Goretta’s creative path becomes less happy with Si le soleil ne revenait pas (1987) and Le courage de parler (1988) and of Schmid with Out of season (1992), which, however, achieved greater success across the border with The Last Days of Switzerland (1999). However, Swiss film production remains still lower than that of other European countries, perhaps due to its dependence on state subsidies, which are not sufficient for a filmography that requires works in French, German and Italian. However, this does not seem to penalize creativity, even emerging creativity, awarded at the Locarno International Festival by the New Swiss Talents competition, dedicated to the film schools of Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich.