Review: ‘Image Problem’

Given Switzerland's image as a fondue-eating, horn-blowing, humorless, secretive, soothingly beautiful tax haven, helmers Simon Baumann and Andreas Pfiffner felt it was time to poke a little fun with "Image Problem."

Given Switzerland’s image as a fondue-eating, horn-blowing, humorless, secretive, soothingly beautiful tax haven, helmers Simon Baumann and Andreas Pfiffner felt it was time to poke a little fun with “Image Problem.” Playing like a cross between “Borat” and Michael Moore, their docu gets off to a promising start, but the joke wears thin before the hour mark, and while there’s a degree of bravery in unmasking xenophobia and racism, they go overboard in their ridiculing of everyone. Swiss B.O. could be strong, with possible infiltration into Germany.

The directors present themselves as a PR team looking to improve Switzerland’s image abroad. Searching for the imperfect, they visit the country’s ugliest square (Grenchen) and litter the wildflower fields near the Matterhorn so foreigners won’t feel intimidated by their beauty. All the while, they get reactions from gullible locals, many of whom unhesitatingly declare their bigotry (including a Hitler admirer). Serious criticism, such as Andreas Missbach’s bid to raise awareness of commodities conglom Glencore’s unsavory practices, loses sting because the rest is constant parody. Deliberately overblown scenes with a blonde vixen embodying Switzerland outstay the chuckles, though music is well used throughout.

Image Problem

Switzerland

Production

A Frenetic Films release of a Ton und Bild, Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen production. Produced by Simon Baumann, Andreas Pfiffner. Co-producer, Urs Augustburger. Executive producer, Roman Tschaeppeler. Directed, written by Simon Baumann, Andreas Pfiffner.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Pfiffner; editors, Katharina Bhend, Mischa Hedinger; music, Anna Trauffer, Noah Veraguth; sound, Simon Baumann, Jonas Cslovjecsek; animation, Cyril Gfeller, Martin Oberli. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 2, 2012. Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Johannes Matyassy, Romano Zerbini, Georg Kreis, Peer Teuwsen, Michael Kuehntopf, Carola Binder, Peter Niggli, Andreas Missbach, Rudolf Vogel. (German, Swiss-German dialogue)

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