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Five Favourite Swiss Picks

by on 2014/08/01

Hacker RendersHot on the heels of July’s Canada Day is another Summer “first” I enjoy: Swiss National Day, which kicks off August. While I most often celebrate the land where I live, like August Schellenberg, I’m actually Swiss-Canadian. And though I take considerable pride in recognizing the pop culture of my home-away-from-home, there’s less of it which is familiar, to be sure.

Still, we’ve covered several works which could qualify, being set or shot in — or simply paid for by — Switzerland.

Star Wars‘ Revenge of the Sith was produced there, as were Sherlock Holmes’ Game of Shadows and the new Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The latter two were also partially set there. Also Helvetica-set were Iron Man 3, True Lies (though ironically shot in Canada), and X-Men’s First ClassThe Great Escape’s prisoners and the original Inglorious Bastards all aspired to reach its safe harbours. And one of my all-time favourite films, Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, was a Swiss co-production despite starring American and French actors, and being set in Austria.

We haven’t even gotten to my personal addiction: James Bond. With the character being half-Swiss and half-Scottish himself, he has a storied history in Switzerland. The movies From Russia with LoveGoldenEyeThe Spy Who Loved Me, and A View to a Kill were all shot there. And significant sequences took place there in both Goldfinger and The World Is Not Enough. Am I leaving any out . . . ?

So, like the country itself, the range of our options may be modest, but I’d argue what is there is very special. That said, I hereby present five picks to celebrate my ancestral land.

The Bourne Identity (2002)The Bourne Identity (2002)

* * * *

“[Jason Bourne] wakes in the Mediterranean, wounded, nearly drowned, and with amnesia. His only clue is a Swiss bank number which sends him off to Zurich . . . Director Doug Liman took Ludlum’s book and turned it into a distillation of much that I love. After years of attempts by other rivals, the James Bond franchise faced its greatest threat with 2002‘s version of The Bourne Identity.”

A Dangerous Method (2011)A Dangerous Method (2011)

* * * * *

“Skipping back and forth from Switzerland to Austria — with a brief sojourn to New York — the narrative begins at 1904, and skips ahead through time . . . A Dangerous Method is an awesome culmination of art and craft. It combines history, biography, and provocative ideas, avoiding the pitfall of dry academic theory. Sensationalist? Not quite. Entertaining? Decidedly.”

The Golden Compass (2007)The Golden Compass (2007)

* * * * *

The Golden Compass [is] an epic steampunk-pirate-cowboy-fantasy mashup boasting big production values, and bigger ideas, a compelling confection too cultish for mainstream acceptance. Whether its grim reaper was business, religious pressure, or another unknown cause, the effect is a loss for us all . . . It has things to say, questions to ask, and communicates them well . . .”

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

* * * *

“Set over Christmas, in a wintry Switzerland, the movie suggests the tidings of Bond, then subverts nearly every one … Make no mistake . . . Bond movies are hardly artistic. A four star rating is just about their theoretical limit, but it’s also a score several of them could earn [and yet] none is as successful overall as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”

Where Eagles Dare (1968)Where Eagles Dare (1968)

* * *

“It’s as if the filmmakers tried for something unconventional, painted themselves into a corner, then shot their way back out again . . . Somewhere inside Where Eagles Dare is a great action flick, waiting for an editor to cut it loose and set it free.”


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