Magazine article Screen International

'Shock Waves - First Name: Mathieu': Berlin Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Shock Waves - First Name: Mathieu': Berlin Review

Article excerpt

The repercussions of violent events responate in one of four ‘Shock Wave’ films

Shock Waves: First Name Mathieu

Dir. Lionel Baier. Switzerland/France. 2018. 61 mins.

About all we can be absolutely certain of in First Name: Mathieu is the protagonist’s name - and the very Swiss character of Lionel Baier’s short feature. The film is one of four in Swiss TV quartet Shock Waves, self-contained dramas based on real-life crime cases; the other directors involved are Ursula Meier (Sister), Frédéric Mermoud (Moka) and Jean-Stéphane Bron (The Paris Opéra). On the evidence of Baier’s film and Meier’s Diary of My Mind, both of which premiered in Berlin’s Panorama Special section, the series is less about shock in any sensationalist sense than about the repercussions of violent events.

First Name: Mathieu comes across as a jigsaw in which certain pieces grab out attention, but aren’t easily integrated into a whole

Baier, who doubles as producer on all four titles, markedly shifts gear here from his 2015 feature, euthanasia-themed comedy Vanity, to offer a fractured, elliptical, enigmatic depiction of the trauma experienced by a young man who undergoes sexual assault. Although accomplished and stylistically distinctive, the film is unlikely to make its own shock waves beyond the TV series, although it could win some festival slots in tandem with Meier’s film.

Although the film is fictional, it is based on the case of Michel Peiry, who committed a number of rapes and murders in Switzerland in the 1980s. Set in 1986 in the French-speaking canton of Vaud, Baier’s story begins with a shot of a clearing at night. Against a series of stark images of telegraph wires, we hear a police report that 17 year-old Mathieu Reymond (Maxime Gorbatchevsky) has been brutally raped, but is the only victim to escape murder by the perpetrator.

Physically and emotionally scarred, his head partly shaved, Mathieu returns home from hospital and, although he stays away from school, attempts to reintegrate himself into home life with his parents (Ursina Lardi, Pierre-Isaïe Duc) and narcissistic brother Mica (Mickael Amman), who maintains a cautious distance.

Meanwhile, police inspector Jotterand (Michel Vuillermoz) gently coaxes Mathieu into searching his memory - resulting in abrupt flashback images of his ordeal - and helping an identikit artist complete an image of the rapist. Jotterand is fascinated by a stray clue: the key to a hotel room where Mathieu says he planned to spend the night with girlfriend Sarah (Nastassja Tanner), who in one striking departure from strict realism, is seen in the room talking directly to camera. …

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