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A Glorious Mess

Four people who can't stop themselves from amassing stuff are observed with compassion and amusement in Swiss-made "A Glorious Mess," helmer Ulrich Grossenbacher's second feature docu.

Four people who can’t stop themselves from amassing stuff are observed with compassion and amusement in Swiss-made “A Glorious Mess,” helmer Ulrich Grossenbacher’s second feature docu. Topically similar to the American reality series “Hoarders” but with less emphasis on therapy, this slow-burning but rewarding study revolves around a quartet of packrats who swim doggedly against the current in a nation often characterized, some might say stereotyped, by its obsession with neatness and order. This crowdpleaser should carve a tidy niche for itself on upmarket cable stations.

Farmer Arthur Santschi’s unwieldy collection of rusting equipment has spread out over his estate, bringing down the wrath of his neighbors and an especially persnickety bureaucrat named Gerhard, who’s determined to clean up the eyesore. Karl’s stuff is literally pushing his wife Trudi away from him. Elmira has to pick her way around an apartment piled with tapes she’s made of radio programs. Seemingly the most pragmatic, Thomas recycles stuff he finds to make interesting inventions. Helmer/lenser/co-writer Grossenbacher consistently coaxes revealing observations and expressive moments, like a near-final shot of Gerhard meticulously rolling up a discarded lead tube.

A Glorious Mess

Switzerland

  • Production: A Fair & Ugly presentation in association with SRF, 3Sat. (International sales: Fair & Ugly, Bern.) Produced, directed by Ulrich Grossenbacher. Written by Thomas Moll, Grossenbacher, Nadia Fares.
  • Crew: Camera (color, HD), Grossenbacher; editor, Maya Schmid; music, Resil Burrl. Reviewed on DVD, London, Aug. 23, 2011. (In Locarno Film Festival -- Critics' Week.) Running time: 117 MIN.
  • With: With: Arthur Santschi, Trudi, Karl, Elmira, Thomas, Gerhard. (German dialogue)