New Cinema 3: Der böse Onkel (The Wicked Uncle)

UK premiere screening Sunday 27th April at 17:00
with director Urs Odermatt and producer Jasmin Morgan in attendance
at the Red Lecture Theatre, Summerhall

Ticket prices £4; concessions (including all 2013-2014 Guild members) £2.50.
Tickets available now through the Summerhall website or ringing 0845 874 3001.

Der böse Onkel poster
Miriam Japp in Der böse Onkel

Der böse Onkel (The Wicked Uncle, Switzerland/Germany 2011, 100min + Q&A)
Director: Urs Odermatt
Producer: Jasmin Morgan
German with English subtitles
Cast: Jörg-Heinrich Benthien, Miriam Japp, Paula Schramm, Julia Heydkamp, Verena Berger, Stephan Dierichs, Pascal Ulli, Kasia Borek, Eva Math

In a small Swiss village, a school sports coach is accused of molestation by the mother of one of his pupils. The citizens are outraged…that the mother could make such a claim – for the coach she accuses is a local hero, a former world champion who has become the town’s closest thing to a sporting legend. This is the subject matter of The Wicked Uncle, a bitingly satirical and sardonicly parodic treatment of small-town parochialism, and the competition of deviant mentalities which these events set in motion are served well by a film which may rightly lay claim to being the closest cinematic equivalent of a Tristram Shandy for the 21st century.

Its apparent topicality is entirely coincidental, given the film’s origins as a stage play in 2002. Despite theatrical roots, the film still manages to defy expectations of either the usual curiously stagebound pieces or those which bear little relation to the source material. The film of The Wicked Uncle is, instead, a fragmented, joyously anarchic, almost slightly schizophrenic work, incorporating direct extracts of stage dialogue intercut and interspersed with slices of footage from the production – in the midst of monologues, we are shown clapperboards; in one memorable sequence, we are shown still images of a production disaster which occurred during the shooting of the scene.

All of this as a way of framing the film’s wilfully controversial subject matter – paedophilia, misogyny, homophobia and xenophobia being just a few of its open targets – only deepens it, adding an extra dimension of visual wit to the proceedings. Irreverence counterbalances discomfort and pitch-black satire begins to seem a much more appropriate way of portraying a community which would allow these sorts of things to take place under its nose before exuding righteous indignation when an open secret is dragged into the light. It certainly seems closer to reality than the oversimplistic, po-faced melodramas which are certain to appear with increasing frequency in the wake of the real-life incidents which the film presciently dramatises. All par for the course for Urs Odermatt, a director whose work acknowledges influences ranging from Krzysztof Kieślowski (whom he studied under) to Irvine Welsh (whose Trainspotting he directed for the Swiss theatre).

Equally important as the film’s content and style is its method of production. The film was created within an entirely new, co-operative model, utilising a professional crew and production methods, but all done on salaries deferred in exchange for a share in the film’s (hoped-for) eventual profits. The film thereby becomes not only an interesting piece of art, but also a masterclass in how its filmmakers have produced a film with production costs of £3 million on a budget of only £40,000.

We are therefore delighted to welcome producer Jasmin Morgan and director Urs Odermatt to discuss this production method and to answer any other questions raised by the film itself at this UK premiere screening.


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