PHILOSOPHY: Narrating his own reminiscences, Christian Labhart spans decades reflecting on the political earthquakes of his lifetime.
Carmen Gray
Freelance film critic and regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: April 8, 2019

«I was sure of this: we would never be like our parents.» Christian Labhart is recalling 1968 in Zurich, the city in which he grew up and which felt the waves of counterculture revolution that had erupted in protests around the world. The Swiss director narrates his own reminiscences throughout Passion – Between Revolt and Resignation, which had its World Premiere at Visions du Reel in Nyon. The diaristic documentary is a decade-spanning reflection on the political earthquakes of his lifetime and his own ebbing and flowing relationship to activism, meaningful community engagement, and the vision of a more just organisation of society. It is both highly personal and a survey of moments that defined massive shifts in public consciousness around the globe, from Chernobyl to the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11. What to do, when rebellious youth reach the age of the parents they defined their worldviews against, and their optimism for change has not been borne out by positive transformations around them?

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Cataclysms and revolts

As a young man, Labhart’s newly embraced leftist convictions drew him to teaching jobs and a fascination with anti-authoritarian education models, as well as a stint on a communal farm run by seven people. We revisit snapshots of him demonstrating against nuclear energy in 1977. His description of himself in his hand-knitted sweater and Birkenstocks fitting in with the like-minded protesters is gently self-ironising as much as it is nostalgic for an idealistic youth. Reality, after all, did not keep step with their dreams. As he says: «We agreed on the utopia of a classless society, but not how to get there.» The violence of the militant Baader-Meinhof Gang in their targeting of former enthusiastic Nazis, the perceived failings of communist ideology in the East as the Berlin Wall fell, and the contamination of radioactive ash floating over Europe from reactor meltdown at a Soviet power plant, problematised these considerations all the more in the ‘70s and ‘80s, as the left found their peaceful idyll elusive.

Reality, after all, did not keep step with their dreams.

Passages from the work of seminal thinkers punctuate these more personal reflections and archival footage of cataclysms and revolts that have shaped the current era. This somewhat haphazard assortment of excerpts reflects shifting thought currents of Marxist thinking. A 1939 …

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