La Suisse s’interroge
A key element in the Swiss national exhibition of 1964, Brandt’s La Suisse s’interroge can be described as an ambulatory installation presenting a series of films within the exhibition’s central sector, La voie suisse. The experience left its mark on visitors, who found their convictions sorely challenged by the Neuchâtel-based filmmaker’s critical view of Switzerland. His intention was actually grounded on a paradox: arouse a national sentiment while also shaking up a people lulled to sleep by comfort.
The filmmaker: Born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Henry Brandt (1921–1998), a pioneering figure of Swiss documentary film, studied literature and trained himself in photography and cinema. His first medium-length film, Les Nomades du soleil (1953), filmed with the Peuls Bororo (Niger) and commissioned by the Musée d’ethnographie de Neuchâtel, was awarded first prize for ethnographic film at the Locarno International Film Festival in 1955. But it was the success of Quand nous étions petits enfants (1961), commissioned by the Société pédagogique neuchâteloise, that explains, at least partly, why he was asked to make La Suisse s’interroge in the form of five short films. His career was mostly based on commissioned works, some of which were intended for the general public, such as Les Seigneurs de la forêt (1958), co-directed with Heinz Sielman and distributed internationally by Twentieth Century Fox, who released twenty-two versions in different languages, while others such as Le dernier Printemps (1977), a film on old age, remained more personal.
The restorer: By digitally restoring films, the Cinémathèque suisse aims to open up access not only to the films’ textual content but also their nature. For this reason, it upholds the code of ethics of the FIAF ( the International Federation of Film Archives) and strives to respect the truest possible original viewing experience of the works it digitalises, while refraining from enhancing or modifying them.