Sister – Switzerland in the Oscar Race

Ursula Meier’s film is coming to the German cinemas next week. Switzerland’s official entry to the Oscar race 2013 tells the moving tale of Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein). The boy comes from a very poor background and steals skies, glasses, jackets and simply everything he can get a hold of in a nearby ski region…

He lives in a social housing complex with his „sister“ Louise (Léa Seydoux) and rides up to the ski area most of his days. He sells the things without second thoughts to kids, friends and petty thieves who make the young boy their henchman.

Ursula Meier captures this seemingly already ruined life in calm pictures. The camera loves the details and sticks close to Simon’s face when he is going up or down the hill in the gondola or shows excessively how he counts his money. The first twist comes quite early in the film, but still catapults the viewer’s perspective into a new dimension in understanding Simon and should thus remain a surprise.

One could assume Simon steals to buy himself new video games or other fun stuff, but actually Louise contributes nothing to their living expenses and so Simon’s money is spent on toilet paper, food and clothing. Because he knows his stealing is a necessity for his survival he doesn’t feel bad or is ashamed of his deeds. The perspective of the audience slowly becomes aligned with this point of view and the deeper understanding of Simon’s motivation stronger than moral judgement on his „wrong“ behaviour.

The difficult relationship with Louise is a central motif of L’enfant d’en haut. She seemingly doesn’t care much for him but rather endures his presence. He longs for her love and tries to get closer to her by paying, but it seems he can never get anything right in the eyes of this hopeless young woman.

This film feels oppressive. The viewer constantly emphasizes with Simon and Louise. But one also keeps fearing Simon might be caught. It’s a tension that slowly builds up and resolves even more slowly.

Without showcasing the situation or a pitiful view on the main characters one is completely drawn into the life’s of Louise and Simon and I was on the edge of my seat by the end. Although I don’t believe this film will go far in the Oscar race I do find this film deeply sad and certainly a must see!

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