With its fairy tale opening, twisting story line and horror heritage it is hard to believe that Sennentuntschi: Curse of the Alps is the first film of its kind to come out of Switzerland. However director Michael Steiner took a huge chance making such a movie and thankfully it paid off.
It’s based on an ancient legend about three lonely herdsmen who craved female companionship so deeply the built a woman out of a straw, rags and a broom. They then found their dream girl brought to life by the Devil who took pity on the poor lonely souls creating Sennentuntschi.
Set in 1975 the film centres around Reusch, a local policeman who finds a young woman wandering the streets of a tiny Swiss village, confused and unable to speak.
Taking her in and eager to discover what has happened to her, Reusch soon discovers that the townspeople are set against him, believing the girl to be the embodiment of evil – possessed by a demon and responsible for the death of a priest who has been found hung in the church.
As Reusch digs deeper secrets are uncovered with seemingly supernatural origins, and the girls past is revealed as a twisted tale, weaved together through a cornucopia of corrupt characters and evil actions all of which have resulted in her present day predicament.
Stunningly shot, Steiner’s Swiss genre movie draws on elements across the board from ghost stories to detective dramas to rape revenge to murder mysteries. All threaded together in a well-crafted story which tags you along all the way.
Black magic and religion are examined as well as superstition and mob mentality as the tiny minded townsfolk take up arms against the moral and pure policeman trying his best to do the right thing by the abandoned girl.
Most interestingly the film delves into the dark side of gender relations and sexual power and it is here in the destructive dynamic formed by Sennentuntschi, Erwin the mountain-dwelling herdsman and his son Albert who take in Martin, a traveller escaping his past.
The story of this unlikely foursome brings to life the legend from the title in a horrific and disturbing way in some of the films hardest to watch scenes with Martin and Erwin, vile characters who are hard to care about.
The performances are excellent, especially Roxane Mesquida as the titular Sennentuntschi last seen being chased by a psychotic tire in the abstract horror Rubber.
Overall Sennentuntschi: Curse of the Alps is an interesting genre picture with lots of depth and an excellent storyline. If this is Switzerland’s first attempt then we can’t wait to see what’s next.