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Locarno: Profiling Thomas Imbach, Director of ’Glaubenberg’

Taboos, obsession and madness are the catalysts for Imbach’s tale of impossible love

Thomas Imbach’s “Glaubenberg” is Switzerland’s sole entry in main international competition at this year’s Locarno Festival, although the director insists that aside from geography, there is little that is uniquely Swiss about the film.

Imbach has been in the international competition before at Locarno with “Happiness is a Warm Gun” in 2001, and 2013’s high-profile “Mary Queen of Scots,” still considered to be one of the most ambitious features to come out of the small land-locked nation.

“Glaubenberg,” set mostly in and around the Glaubenberg Pass in the Emmental Alps, follows 16 year-old Lena, a girl who’s love for her brother Noah is more than sisterly. Lena escapes into daydreams and fantasy at first, but eventually moves to more practical means of satiating her desire, manipulating the people around her.

“I know this story from my personal life,” Imbach told Variety in an interview before the festival. “And for me it’s like a scandal that a strong feeling like love can devolve into this madness and that these strong emotions can’t be separated from that madness.”

“The madness in the film is part of unrequited love,” said Imbach, adding, “This is what makes you mad. This is not just about a brother and sister; it applies to all love stories that are not possible for any reason.”

With “Glaubenberg”  Imbach took some inspiration from the story of Byblis and Kaunos in Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” a tale that Imbach first discovered while well into the writing of the script for the film.

“It came as a great surprise to find my story distilled in the six pages I had just read,” he recalled. “That gave me confidence that this is a really human story that stretches back to ancient times and still exists now.”

The film is shot almost exclusively from Lena’s point of view.

“We wanted to be with her right away, and experience the world with her. It was my job to build a bridge to the audience for the emotions she feels,” the director explained.

“That was done through the focus on close-ups. It’s like a stream of consciousness, there are a lot of real parts going on but there is a lot of daydreaming too.”

“Glaubenberg” is co-produced by Okofilm Productions, Swiss Radio and Television and Swiss public broadcaster SRG SSR. The film world premieres Monday, Aug 6.

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