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The Power of Imagination: A Retrospective of Peter Liechti

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What forms can documentary film take? Really extraordinary ones, as far as films by internationally renowned Swiss director Peter Liechti are concerned. To Liechti, the film medium is an open field entered by other art elements such as music and literary text. Under his directing guidance, plastic documentary images emerge, dominated by a common trait; that of a stream of imagination.


The online selection of Liechti’s works represents a summary of his films made in more than 20 years. During this time, Peter Liechti, who had originally studied visual arts, has created a specific film language with an emphasis on the powerful combination of long takes, macroscopic details and literary means of expression. In case of Liechti’s films, the label “documentary essay“ is more than fitting. The unique compilation, with its accord of narrative and visually powerful images, is perhaps best represented by the highly suggestive documentary The Sound of Insects: Report of a Mummy, which has received the Prix Arte of the European Film Academy in 2009. The voluntary death of the protagonist, accompanied by a philosophical reflection on the birth and death of life, is captured by means of the miniature movement of individual natural elements.

However, the rest of Liechti’s works deserve attention as well. A specific combination of electronic music and film characterizes Liechti’s debut Kick That Habit. Music has also been the main theme of the appreciated film Namibia Crossings capturing an ethnically diverse group of musicians on tour in the South African state. Whereas music is a strong linking element between the individual protagonists, their cultural differences and bias lead to many a misunderstanding. The director’s personal testimony about the search for his own roots, integrated in the story of his attempt to get rid of his nicotine addiction, is given during the contemplative journey to the director’s native city in Lucky Jack. The selection of 11 Liechti’s films is supplemented by a topical interview with the director made by the prestigious documentary DOX magazine.

Learn more about the power of Liechti’s visual language in a unique online retrospective from February 10 to 16 at DAFilms.com for free! Enter Peter Liechti’s world of endless imagination!


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Films for the event

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Signers Suitcase

Signers Koffer (Orig.) / 1996 / Switzerland / 85 min

«In balance between Schalk and melancholy... On the way with the artist Roman Signer - an attempt at the ideal cruising speed.»

Detail…

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Lucky Jack

Hans im Glück (Orig.) / 2003 / Switzerland / 90 min

"Hans im Glück" is the story of a man who sets out to get rid of his habit of smoking. Thus he plans to walk from Zurich, his present residence, «back» to his native town St. Gallen, where he startet to smoke a long time ago.

Detail…

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HARDCORE CHAMBERMUSIC – A Club for 30 Days

HARDCORE CHAMBERMUSIC – A Club for 30 Days (Orig.) / 2006 / Switzerland / 71 min

A thirty day music marathon by Swiss musicians Koch-Schütz-Studer turns into a cinematic piece of chamber music.

Detail…

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Spring Thaw

Tauwetter (Orig.) / 1987 / Switzerland / 8 min

During the spring thaw, when the hills in Appenze11 are clad in a patchwork of green and white, buckets filled with water glide slowly up and down the slope.

Detail…

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Théatre de l’espérance

Théatre de l’espérance (Orig.) / 1987 / Switzerland / 18 min

World peace, disarmament and re-armament are hackneyed phrases, and the images we see on television and in the paper are hackneyed images. It was with this in mind that I set out – with more than a little delight – to drag the long worn-out images of the Geneva summit between Reagan and Gorbachev into the spotlight once again.

Detail…

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Alpine Forays

Ausflug ins Gebirg (Orig.) / 1986 / Switzerland / 33 min

While on vacation, a man takes an excursion to an unfamiliar neighbouring country. There, in the alpine confinement, he finds an ideal echo for the rage he had brought with him: rage towards the mountains, civilisation and mentality. At times, a sense of glee even surfaces with this unbridled rage. He needs these forays into the mountains. He uses his anger to get to the bottom of his discomfort.

Detail…

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Vertical / Horizontal

Senkrecht / Waagrecht (Orig.) / 1985 / Switzerland / 8 min

The sequences of movement and the plots in Roman Signer’s action sculptures can be viewed as sculptures of space and time. The directions of movement in these documents proceed in a markedly contrasting fashion.

Detail…

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Grimsel – Ein Augenschein

Grimsel – Ein Augenschein (Orig.) / 1990 / Switzerland / 48 min

Grimsel-West was the name of a project for the expansion of the hydroelectric plant in the Hasli Valley. Submitted on 30 June 1988, its realization seems fairly improbable for the moment. Originally conceived as an expression of opposition to the construction of a new dam, the film tries to fathom the undercurrent of apprehension caused by such plans to exploit the environment.

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Martha's Garten

Marthas Garten (Orig.) / 1997 / Switzerland / 89 min

Since weeks it's cold and wet. It's already late, Karl Winter is on his way home. Under dark circumstances he accidentally meets a woman of mysterious fascination - Martha... And so begins a love story of fatal dynamics which throws Karl far off the tracks of reason. Wicked dreams and subliminal changes in Karl's surroundings confirm his feelings that with Martha the uncanniness has also entered his life.

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The Sound of Insects: Record of a Mummy

The Sound of Insects: Record of a Mummy (Orig.) / 2009 / Switzerland / 88 min

Peter Liechti's documentary is the winner of European Film Awards Prix ARTE for best European documentary in 2009. This year's edition of European Film Awards will take place in Berlin on 3 December.

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Namibia Crossings

Namibia Crossings (Orig.) / 2004 / Switzerland / 92 min

Musicians from all corners of the world are brought together in the movie in an unbelievable mix of music styles. Against the background of breathtaking nature, exciting musical confrontations ensue.

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