Swiss cinema, Review


Das Boot ist voll (sometimes translated as "The Lifeboat is Full"), directed by Markus lmhoof, is a notable accomplishment in Swiss cinema of the late 20111 century. It received the Silver Berlin Bear for Outstanding Single Achievement in 1981 at the Berlin International Film Festival, and the following year it was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Foreign Film. These honors presumably sprang not merely from recognition of Imhoof' s courage in recalibrating the past, in putting an alternate face on the Holocaust, and in documenting Swiss refugee policies during the Second World War. These are all foundational aspects of the film, true enough, but Imhoof's unique artistry lies in the crafting of these factors into a moving, personalized narrative. If we see a cinematic vision of unfeeling bureaucracy amidst vacillating societal cowardice and bravery, it is filtered through the lens of survival-or-Treblinka consequences for identifiably vulnerable characters. Fictional peril, even when rolled out in understated scenes free of sentimental treacle, still grabs us as viewers at a visceral level, since we know that any Jew turned away and deported to Germany is doomed. In its own fashion, this Swiss-German-Austrian coproduction is a powerful and revelatory film on the Holocaust. The production company's name, Limbo Films, gives an apt description for the predicament of the protagonists.

Original Publication Citation

Hacken, R. (2008). The Boat is Full: Swiss Asylum Denied. Markus Imhoof, Director. Switzerland: 1981. Swiss American Historical Society Review, 44(3), 26-29.

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Masthof Press






Germanic and Slavic Languages