Fight the Power: Cyril Schäublin on Unrest | Interviews

ytsfreeSeptember 13, 2022

Schäublin’s approach to filmmaking sheds light on often-ignored subjects. With “Unrest,” he shifts the camera ever so slightly to encompass the experiences of women in industrial spaces. But he is rarely didactic with his choices. After he weaves influences from theater, philosophy, history, and science into a complex tapestry, he then turns this broad canvas over to the audience to extract their own thoughts and interpretations. For Schäublin, this intentionality came as a matter of course.

In directing “Unrest,” Schäublin encouraged his cast of mostly non-actors to avoid any overly theatrical displays. Wide shots of anarchists fundraising outside of their place of work or gathering to exchange photos of famous revolutionaries encourage the viewer to find their own way through the frame, with naturalistic dialogue only mildly guiding our eyes toward the ostensible subject of any given scene. The result is almost voyeuristic, ironically giving the impression someone somehow managed to set up video cameras in the Jura mountains 150 years ago for our benefit. Yet despite this documentarian appearance, “Unrest” is simultaneously conscious of its inherent bias as a historical drama film. When Schäublin applies his open-ended aesthetic to this problem, he threads the needle on providing a more comprehensive picture of the time period than you might find in a history book without moralizing about his ideas.

“Unrest” is a tale of a struggle between nationalism and anarchism, bosses and workers. It comes at a time of global upheaval, reactionary trends, and labor resurgence. Ahead of its appearance TIFF ’22, RogerEbert.com sat down with Schäublin to discuss his mutual aid-influenced style of filmmaking, his affinity for a liberated audience experience, and the influence of the women in his family on the stories he chooses to tell.

Beyond its success at film festivals, what has the reception to “Unrest” been like so far?

Good, good. I traveled with the film. I’ve had really good conversations with people, many different reactions. I’m a bit nervous to show it to my family … 

Have they not seen it yet?

My brother has. My brother is an academic. He studied anthropology at Oxford. He helped me a lot during the film.

Was your brother involved as a consultant?

He helped me organize the information I found talking to my family, all the people who work in watch factories, and he gave me good contacts. I would say he and the historical advisor (Florian Eitel), who published his PhD work on this [Swiss] valley in the second half of the 19th century with a microhistorical approach, did all the research. That was very lucky, because most of the books I found about the anarchist movement in the 19th century—not only in Switzerland [but] also wherever else—they seemed to only focus on the anarchist movement, on people that would call themselves anarchists, and not about the surroundings or how it was juxtaposed to other situations. And I think that’s really important. That’s what’s really great about this book [Anarchistische Uhrmacher in der Schweiz] from Eitel: he tried to see the situation of this town. It was written in German and will be translated into French this September. 

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