Unrest (original title Unrueh) is authentic in every way. The costumes, sets and especially the shots of watchmaking are handled with as much care and precision as the film’s famous chronometers. Not a stitch is out of place; every detail feels historically accurate and meticulous. Writer/director Cyril Schäublin descends from a family of watchmakers in the Jura Mountains and the film is steeped in this familiarity and love for the craft. The scenery is bucolic and charming, and the choice to have white noise present throughout bolsters the sense of grounding in reality.
The story takes place in a sleepy Swiss village in 1877, where factory workers assemble components into watches, as they themselves are assembled by uncaring managers into the larger industrial strata. Into this revolutionary landscape enters Pyotr Kropotkin, a cartographer from Russia who is there to update the maps of the region with their proper names. He quickly becomes involved in the plight of local anarchists and, through his journey, the viewer sees the workers struggle against the slow, methodic crushing of the individual (with light, life, song and sorrow) into an unfeeling worker, simply there to punch in, punch out and not make trouble.
The revolutionary atmosphere oozes tension, which slowly builds without the film losing its deft touch or respect for the story being told: Unrest is a whisper, not a bang. It is so confident in its choices that despite its steady pacing, the audience are unlikely to feel bored. The struggles of the workers feel familiar, even 150 years later, yet it forsakes all modern hysteria. The stakes are high but the characters are always grounded and never reduced to plot devices or pieces on a narrative chessboard. Even the corrupted figures in the story seem misguided, but never evil.
Unrest is a haunting experience crafted with a confidence and security that is rare amid the modern cinematic landscape. Although the subject matter is political, it never feels sanctimonious or heavy-handed. It slowly, methodically takes the audience on a journey that is, at its heart, about human beings, meanwhile contrasting the joy, laughter and camaraderie of the workers with the cold machinations of industrial minds without glorifying or vilifying. The audience is allowed to watch, think and enjoy.
Unrueh (Unrest) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our London Film Festival 2022 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the London Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Unrest here: