Hot Docs 2017: The Girl Down Loch Änzi
Alice Schmid brings an intimate, personal story of a young Swiss girl growing up on a remote farm in The Girl Down Loch Änzi. Laura, the main focus of the narrative, spends her days tending to the various animals the charcoal burner family has on their acreage—a rabbit, a pony, ostriches and some turkey.
She never outright says so, but it’s easy to see and feel her isolation from the world around her in how she goes about her days. She spends much of the film’s time alone, spying local wildlife and local folks’ comings and goings through her binoculars. Laura, like many of the people in the area, knows of and is fixated on the Loch Änzi Maiden, a kind of Swiss Blair Witch local legend. And when a new boy comes to the farm for a week to help out with the farm work, Laura catches his interest with talk of the legend.
Schmid’s portrait of Laura is both unjudging but still subjective—we see (and through voiceover, hear) Laura’s quieter moments from a close up, yet still removed viewpoint. This choice of perspective allows the audience to appreciate the local environment through gorgeous views, but at times presents conversations in such a way that they come off as more reality show than documentary in shot choice.
Minor gripe aside, Laura’s story in Loch Änzi is one of hope, disappointment and self-affirmation, mostly centering on her interactions with Thom, the boy coming to help with the farm. Her days leading up to his arrival are marked with daydreams of what they could do together, and the days after slowly bring reality back into focus regarding their relation to each other. What results is a bittersweet view into a young girl’s life in rural Switzerland, capped with a conquering of her childhood fear and a confident statement of purpose to both Thom and the world at large.