It’s not a happy film and at times it moves too slowly. How long can we look at a chairlift? But “A Piece of Sky” does deal with a mammoth issue that I’ll politely refer to in general as mental illness. What do you do when your partner, your spouse, your beloved, changes and threatens your family, involving himself in disgusting behavior?
Admittedly, I couldn’t see why Anna (Michele Brand) fell for the big, burly, uncommunicative Marco (Simon Wisler), from the “lowlands” (in more ways than one), in the beginning. He was not a part of her community in the alpine region. He hardly ever spoke. Though he was a hard-worker, he was also a loner with a brooding downward gaze. Something was wrong with him from the beginning.
After their marriage, he began getting headaches. Anna took him to a doctor who gave him an MRI. It revealed he had a tumor in the area of his brain that deals with impulse control. Though he has surgery to remove the tumor, he is a changed guy upon return home. Previously impassive, now it seems he has become more sensitive. After he is ordered to take a healthy beautiful cow to slaughter, he no longer has a desire to work or do much of anything. He just shuts down, perhaps in depression.
I’m not going into detail on his spiral into greater illness. What is interesting is the moral dilemma. When the person we are committed to manifests significantly aberrant or unsafe behavior, what is the protocol? What does a partner do?
In sickness and in health …
That is the exploration in “A Piece of Sky.” When our beloved changes, how should we react? How do we even still find love? Compassion?
An outstanding a cappella choir breaks up each section of the film. In the beginning their portentous words set the stage: “The village is quiet – it dreams of an ancient tale/ the night watch sings his song/ he sings of ancient times/ The church bells ring the hours/ they shiver in the air/ and golden stars shine in the heavens/ What are you hammering so endlessly – so unseemly.. my heart?”
This is Switzerland’s Entry for Best International Feature. Swiss director Michael Kock takes us up into the Alps where we are high enough to see views of an extensive world below. The people who live there are hard-workers. Anna (Michele Brand) is a single mother who runs a cafe and boarding house while also being the community’s mail carrier. She’s responsible and caring. She is the lovely young woman who inexplicably falls for the silent, brooding, Marco (Simon Wisler).
“A Piece of Sky” is actually based on a radio report Kock heard some years ago. He searched for the real Anna and found her. Through several interviews, he tried to understand the reason Anna reacted to her disturbed husband the way she did.
He also interviewed the people who lived in the remote Alpine village, spending up to three years with them and hiring non-professional actors from the region to add to the authenticity of his film. It was important to Kock to make it accurate, and in a sense, make it right.
After a few days, I am still haunted by this film of uncommon moral depth and perspective. Kock, in this second film, shows uncommon courage, sensitivity and insight.
Director: Michael Kock
Country locations: Switzerland and Germany
Cinematography: Armin Dierolf
Film Editing: Florian Riegel
Music: Jannik Giger, Tobias Koch
Production Design: Sara Giancane
Costume Design: Sara Giancane
Cast: Michele Brand, Simon Wisler
Production Company: hugofilm features GmbH, Zurich/ Pandora Film Produktion, Cologne/ SRF / SRG SSR / ARTE
Swiss Producers: Christof Neracher
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