16 November 2005 | manuel-pestalozzi
Swiss gumshoe epic - carefully crafted late Noir
The German title has a double meaning, the case (for a detective) and the fall (as in decline and fall). The hardly known last movie of revered Swiss dialect film director Kurt Früh lives up to that double meaning and I was surprised to find this a very carefully crafted swan song.
The main character is an ex cop who claims he discovered cases of child molesting in the higher echelons of police hierarchy and was therefore fired from the force. No further reference is made to that story but one of the main themes is the sexual frustration of the main character. He is forced to work as a private detective, but without the gracefulness of a Philip Marlowe or the open spaces of Southern California. His territory is the northern part of Zurich, Oerlikon, at that time still seat of several large industrial plants and in the throes of significant urban transformations. The movie conveys that the sun never shines in Oerlikon. Either it is night or it rains or it is foggy. And it is always noisy.
Unlike other movies of Kurt Früh, Der Fall, filmed in black and white, is clearly a homage to Film Noir, probably influenced by the work of Jean-Pierre Melville. Mostly shot on location, it shows the growing alienation in an urban setting that is at once shoddy and strangely sterile. Every scene is set up with great care, the way natural sounds are an integral part of the whole movie and its rhythm is of the first order.
As much as Der Fall is an awesome exercise in style, it includes a heavy dose of realism. The relation of the gumshoe with a carefree" young woman of the Hippie/Hell's Angels generation has the main character descend into beatnik clubs etc. for which existing places were filmed just as they were. Peter Fonda on his chopper and a young Muhammad Ali are present as posters in the girl's flat. The climax of the movie takes place during the six day bicycle race, an indoor event that was an annual fixture in Oerlikon at the time the movie was made. Again the filmic and directorial quality of the episode with this live event is really first class (a bit like the first Rollerball movie...).
I can recommend Der Fall to anyone who likes stylish black and white movies and is interested in specific urban landscapes.