Who invented hat′s? The Swiss – at least when it comes to entertainment – are not! The last few years have seen increasing signs that here and there films from the land of chocolate and the Matterhorn can be more than just cheese. But Switzerland has hardly ever succeeded in catching up with international standards with series. The new series »Labyrinth of Peace« draws a line under it. In many ways it opens a new chapter.
The screenwriter Petra Volpe is probably the greatest asset the Swiss film scene has these days. This has also been recognised by Swiss Radio Television SRF. It lets the author tell a story about a series that has never been seen before in Switzerland. »Labyrinth of Peace« has everything that needs serious entertainment of the highest quality.
Petra Volpe and the people responsible at Zodiac Pictures, which produced the six-part series, are to be commended for the decision to place the direction in the hands of director Mike Schaerer. This is less self-evident than one might think:
Volpe is a director herself (The Divine Order). And those who can write fiction usually want to realize it in Switzerland. So it would have been obvious to leave the director’s chair to the Swiss woman living in New York. Conversely, director Mike Schaerer has shown himself to be a solid craftsman with his film adaptation of “Das kleine Gespenst” in Germany, but an obvious recommendation for a children’s book adaptation for a post-war story is only conditional…
Nevertheless, one would not wish for another director and even less for another author! The same goes for the excellent camera (Christian Marohl, a name to remember!) and editing (Wolfgang Weigl) as well as the casting (Corinna Glaus).
»Labyrinth of Peace« inspires
In general, an understanding of the dialectic of montage is probably one of the keys to why »Labyrinth of Peace« is convincing at all levels. Mike (Michael) Schaerer is a cutter himself. He teaches at the Zurich University of the Arts. His direction is a subtle and highly skilful montage of parallel plot lines. People are enthusiastic because each of these storylines can convince on its own. The script work also makes a decisive contribution to this.
Petra Volpe also assembles sentences and dialogues in the best sense of the word – and is not afraid to dismantle and unmask. She has understood that every war tears a wound that can only heal over generations. “Only the dead have seen the end of war,” the American philosopher George Santayana recognized as early as 1922 after the First World War.
In terms of content, »Labyrinth of Peace« is based on the report of the independent Commission of Experts Switzerland, which was published eighteen years ago. Commissioned by the Swiss Federal Assembly and the government, the report has examined “the role of Switzerland and how it has dealt with this period of its history”.
12’ooo pages long is the so-called Bergier Report, named after the President of the Commission. The legal and historical preparation of this dark epoch cost Switzerland 22 million. Volpe and Schaerer had 6 TV episodes and 8 million Swiss Fränkli to do justice to their ancestors and at the same time millions of exterminated Jews. You do that with flying colors! And with the only possible trick: You work with gaps. Because unlike what is claimed by one of the series characters in episode 5: what is essential remains unspeakable!
Catapult and echo chamber
Volpe uses the series title »Labyrinth of Peace« equally as catapult and echo chamber. For peace and quiet reigned only superficially in the series and in Switzerland in 1945. It’s anything but a salutary state of absence of disturbances that drives the characters over 6 episodes. From this differentiation, the author creates a captivating universe. The brilliant cast without exception contributes to theirs.
»Labyrinth of Peace« can claim to be the first Swiss series of which one would like to watch all six episodes in a row without a break! It is a production that even Netflix could hardly have produced better.
The view abroad
Nevertheless: In contrast to comparable series productions from German-speaking countries, episode 1 of »Labyrinth of Peace« unfortunately sells for less than its value:
At the end of the first episode, there are few good reasons, especially for younger audiences, to want to watch the next episode. The series can only gradually develop its true appeal. That is a pity, and possibly costs a lot of viewers, especially abroad.
The way in which the viewer looks ahead and back at the end of each episode is also less imaginative than in foreign series. The applied style of these previews and recaps is reminiscent of a docusoap. The only thing that is similarly painful – possibly for budgetary reasons – is the increasingly unloving orchestration, which becomes more and more unpleasant as the consequences progress. Here the series misses a chance and incomprehensibly gives away potential. “Casa del Papel”, the most successful European series to date, shows impressively what a series soundtrack can achieve.
The irritating and arrogant decision to place the channel logo as an integral part of the series (which in the original German version consists only of the single word “Frieden”) name next to the title in the opening credits is simply annoying.
As Swiss state television, you have every right to be proud of this series! But one would have expected a little more humility and tact from those responsible for broadcasting around cultural director Susanne Wille and Urs Fitze, who made this masterpiece possible with tax money but did not make it possible but . “»Labyrinth of Peace« is a cleverly chosen title. But to want to take this word as a brand is tactless. While the Second World War was raging in Europe, little Switzerland owed peace in its own country less to its own efforts than to fortunate circumstances outside its sphere of influence.
Nevertheless: You can’t and don’t want to do anything else than to hope for a next season with this outstanding series!