For the young Swiss brothers Flurin and Silvan Giger, filmmaking is all in the family. Between them the two produced, wrote, and directed their second short, “Schächer,” which world premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival Critics’ Week.
The two have defined roles in their partnership; Flurin writes and directs, Silvan is the director of photography, and the two produce together. Flurin, 22 and Silvan, 21, first found international success as teenagers when, in 2016, their debut short “Ruah” premiered at the Venice Film Festival.
As producers, it is incumbent on the pair to raise their own funds for their work. Flurin explained to Variety that the money behind “Schächer,” “was not raised in the normal ‘Swiss’ way. We put our own money into this film, got some sponsors and some small funds from foundations. It all came together like a puzzle.”
When it came to the behind-the-scenes work, once again family was key. “To build the sets our whole family was invited,” Flurin explained, “and everybody helped to make it possible.”
“Schächer” is a love story hiding under the ghostly sheet of a thriller, culminating in a twist that is simple in theory, yet could be profound – it’s up to critics to judge – in practice. The film never leaves the snowy mountain cabin of its elderly protagonists, who are visited in the middle of the night by a ski-masked intruder. From there, the film explores grief through a combination of sometimes-uncomfortable interactions and solitary moments, before revealing what really happened on the film’s first night.
The Gigers’ use stationary shots to frame the interactions of characters, but also to build suspense. Danger, perceived or real, always feels just out of the picture, enhanced by reflective surfaces which often display almost-ethereal images.
“The idea for the film came from very personal questions I had, and still have,” Flurin says. “Not long ago I lost my beloved grandparents. Their death came so unexpected and was very hard for me to deal with. I had so many questions about it but couldn’t find answers to all of them.”
Those questions are the thesis of “Schächer,” asked subtly through its narrative which invites the audience to ask questions of their own. It’s a dialogue that Flurin says he wants to foster, although he admits answers may be unlikely.
“In many places the subject of dying and death is treated as taboo,” he says. “I think it’s because of the many unanswered questions that come with death. With the film, I would like to inspire the viewers to think about these questions and encourage them to discuss… and I will just listen in silence.”
The brothers are now working on their first feature, “The Last Field,” a 19th century period piece which will follow a peasant couple who live in a world convinced it is coming to an end.
“It’s an apocalypse film, but not set in the future like current end-of-the-world films,” the Gigers explain, “but rather in the past. It will focus on how brutal people can be when they think they might lose everything.”
The Giger’s are aiming to shoot in 2019.