Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: Sennentuntschi

Sennentuntschi: Curse of the Alps
Directed by Michael Steiner
Starring: Roxane Mesquida, Nicholas Ofczarek, Andrea Zogg, Carlos Leal, Joel Basman
Grade: C

‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ is a proverb that plays a prominent role in Michael Steiner’s tongue-twister horror title “Sennentuntschi.” Having recently had its UK premiere at burgeoning horror festival FrightFest, the mythological elements of this chilling, religious shocker are promoted through titular add-on ‘Curse of the Alps,’ which helps to cement the feeling that the supernatural will feature heavily in the drama. In this regard “Sennentuntschi” does not disappoint, offering a uniquely deranged brand of melodrama, and a plot that embraces wild abandon.

Beginning with the grizzly discovery of a skeleton on a mountainside, "Sennentuntschi" flashes back to detail the whos, hows and whys behind the death of this person, and the nature of their presence in a small village in 1975 Switzerland. Keen to ante up the drama early on, this retrospective switch features an immediate introduction of conflict, one of the priests at the local church discovered hung from the bells in an apparent suicide. For the religious inhabitants of this place a man of the cloth taking his own life bears serious implications, and so the tiny populous seek to discover how this has happened, and to indict the evils behind it.

When a villager spies a mysterious young woman roaming the woods a search brings her back to the town, where the reluctant agreement is that she is an outsider here by chance. After the local Sheriff Sebastian fetches her back to the home of the Mayor, Sennentuntschi attacks his pregnant wife in a fit of panic and runs off into the mountains, prompting the villagers to assert that she is a demonic presence in their haven, and to seek out the young woman and bring her to justice.

Since back in the days of "Johnny Belinda" muting female protagonists has proved a handy cinematic device for making male exploitation appear even more deplorable. Sennentuntschi exhibits the signs of stunted social development and a lack of emotional maturity (the reason for this is later revealed) appearing as mythical and androgynous a figure as Sci-fi badass Summer Glau in "Serenity." There's something dangerous about the way Mesquida stalks this mountainside town, and Steiner promotes her as a form of mythological being, judging all around her with instinctual verve rather than adhere to the ideological framework of this place. Partly through shunning perceived "normalities" of this religiously fanatical paradigm, and partly due to emerging in the wrong place at the wrong time, Sennentuntschi finds herself hunted down, but still treats this town as her natural habitat.

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