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"If you like what you’ve already got, what more do you want? A normal life, you could say. Leading a completely normal life."
"Who makes the decisions in this flat?" – "We don’t have any rules. We give one another advice. And then we do whatever convinces me."
There comes a point in everyone’s life when parents (also departed) become increasingly important again. At the latest, when we have children of our own. Or when taking stock of our life, coping with a crisis, or wanting to fundamentally reorientate ourselves. All at once, parents become a topic again; suddenly, there is a desire to reflect on the past and an effort to re-establish the link to the past, with all the previous "instances"... At long last, I myself have arrived at this point.
We are all part of a long succession of changing generations, and every generation encompasses the achievements, values, traumata and utopias of its forebears. For this reason alone we ought to be particularly concerned about knowing our roots. A break with one’s past, the "deleting" of one’s personal background uproots us.
In the past traditional values and conditions in society changed very gradually. Consequently, one had time to learn and understand, to become accustomed to innovations and integrate them into one’s own world. This has changed drastically in recent decades. In the course of a single lifetime, the over-80 generation has experienced such massive changes and paradigm shifts that they are, so to speak, disconnected from modern-day life. The elderly understand precious little of the younger generation’s concerns, while today’s youth can hardly imagine what life was like 60 years ago. I perceive this disrupted state to be the most radical change in western culture since it has existed, akin to a chasm right through our psyche.
Before my parents had even become aware of the so-called "modern" age, they were already living in a time subsequent to the "postmodern." Despite – or perhaps precisely because of – their narrow-minded immunity to certain trends, they epitomise the classic "western" self-image of their generation. Their way of seeing and doing things has long since become irrelevant. Nevertheless, we perceive it as typical for "our type." They are storybook Swiss, yet not yokels. Both are educated and well informed – even though from very contrasting sources:
As long as I can remember, Mother has predicted an apocalypse of biblical proportions, the decline of humanity as a consequence of its insatiable greed, the omnipotence of the "golden calf," the turning away from God and the abolishment of all taboos in all areas of life.
Father pinpoints the source of the continual degeneration, especially among the youth: violence and the youth’s lack of respect towards the elderly. Parents and teachers who no longer have their marauding children under control. The dissolution of "natural" roles between men and women. The debasement of real work in favour of speculation and profit...
Not least in this film, I would also like to pay tribute to people like my parents who have never been in the so-called "public eye" and nevertheless – or perhaps because of this – have spent their entire lives contributing to the preservation of our society and culture. And at the same time, commemorate an entire era on the verge of vanishing – just as silently and inconspicuously.
FATHER’S GARDEN is an attempt at a personal revision of the past. I had always felt like a stranger in my own family until I noticed – not without disquiet – how similar we are in actual fact. The more often I see my parents, all the more moved I am by their old age, by their gradual fading from this life, by the dying out of an entire recollective reservoir. Thus, this film does not necessarily tell the parable of the "prodigal son," but rather the "story of parents lost."
My parents reject the computer, refuse to go on the “Net” and do not think "globally." Both bemoan the general loss of identity and freedom, the lack of respect and moral values in our society. They represent the typical petite bourgeoisie in Switzerland, their viewpoints are decidedly conservative. For half of my life I was convinced that I had to do everything differently than they do, also think differently and feel differently. And nowadays I catch myself with increasing regularity defending their, or rather, the "old values" against the vulgarity of present-day materialism.
FATHER’S GARDEN is not merely a portrait of my parents. Rather, it is the cinematic convergence of an awareness of life, representing an attitude towards life in a bygone era.
In order to express the divisiveness of my own position, the interviews and more intimate family scenes are staged as a Punch and Judy show in which the "ghosts of the past" also make their appearance. The puppet stage represents, as it were, both the home and the confines of narrow-mindedness – then as now. Interspersing documentary observation with a fictionalised family tribunal enables the creation of a very personal cosmos, conveying at all times that a person involved is giving his or her account here. A story which evolved entirely from the "synergy of an intricate encounter."