A Stroll Along a Street in Film

By Dharma Senn

We walk along streets for a considerable part of our lives. Metaphorically, of course, as well. One foot in front of the other, carrying ourselves towards our goals. Some prefer bikes or cars instead. Others like to take their time.

But metaphors really have no place on nights where the autumn cold makes us feel giggly, and the lights of advertisements make us contemplative. Faces pass us by, faces we forget the instant they move out of our view. Some of them linger for a few more seconds in the back of our minds and then vanish softly. 

Our feet are planted firmly on the ground. The camera accompanying us moves silently about. People look at its lens, see their own reflection in the camera’s eye. Zürich is always full of people, even at night. The city never sleeps.

Continue reading “A Stroll Along a Street in Film”

The Death of the Dog and The Thing About Training Wheels

By Dharma Senn

Dogs, young children, occasionally cats: they seem to be untouchable by the gritty hands of narrative death. If a film dares to kill one of the above, all bets are off. But when has film ever cared about conventionality?

The dog dies. Tears flow. Usually.

In today’s narratives, dogs are often brought up whenever a certain natural setting is involved. In her 2002 essay, “Good Dog: The Stories We Tell about Our Canine Companions and What They Mean For Humans and Other Animals”, Karla Armbuster suggests that dogs as domestic animals are seen as existing on the thin line between nature and culture. In turn, “the dog’s perceived position on the nature/culture boundary promises modern humans a connection to nature that has otherwise largely been lost” (353).

Therefore, adventure films like The Call of the Wild (2020, dir. Chris Sanders) utilize the dynamic between human, animal and the wilderness in their narrative, as survival stands on screen as a central theme.  We fear for the dog because it is a protagonist, because its struggles are just as clearly articulated as its owner’s. The dog serves as a mediator between nature and culture, and helps its human survive. Naturally, the dog survives as well, or its death is emotionally affecting for the viewer.

 But what if the dog in question is not a helpful protagonist? What if nature is not a threat? What if it is not a narrative of survival, but one of growing up? 

Continue reading “The Death of the Dog and The Thing About Training Wheels”

I Watched Tiger King and I Have… Feelings

By Fabia Morger

Oh, to be young again! There are some university courses I’d retake in a heartbeat if I had the chance. One of them is the Bachelor-level class “Language Skills and Culture II” of our English department. Attending the classes was pure enjoyment for me: it gave me a chance to re-watch so many of my favorite movies from a more theoretical angle and gain a deeper understanding of the cultures that had shaped them. One text that stayed in my mind even years later, is Warren Buckland’s “The Non-Fiction Film: Five Types of Documentaries”. It was this text that made me aware of how documentaries are not an objective record of real events and how choices made by documentary filmmakers shape the way we look at the events presented to us, even if they are supposedly non-fiction. And, boy, what movie better showcases this than the legendarily popular documentary series Tiger King?

Continue reading “I Watched Tiger King and I Have… Feelings”

The Top 5 Albums from 2019

by Raph al Guul

Each year I try to listen to between 60 and 100 newly released albums in hopes of hearing some outstanding new music. I consider it my contribution to dispelling the silly notion that music used to be much better in the past. Not every band that made great music in the 80s is gone or washed up today. And there is also plenty of fresh talent that rises to excellence these days.

2019 was a great year in music to close out the 2010s. We’ve had plenty of excellent songs from all corners of the industry. When it comes to albums, it was the stalwarts in particular that came through again. The following five records are particularly dear to my heart. I consider them to be the best albums to have come out this year – at least when taking into account a hefty dose of genre bias.

Continue reading “The Top 5 Albums from 2019”

Letters Challenges Gender Norms in Games

By Thilo Thelitz

The upcoming Zurich-made video game Letters is “a story about a girl discovering the power of words,” but not in the way you might think as an English student. In the game, you play as Sarah, an 11-year old Swiss girl writing to her pen pal in Russia. You are shrunk down and literally move in between lines of text to pick up words and throw them at your surroundings in order to progress to the next level. For more background on the game and its development, I had an interview with one of the developers, Martina Hotz.

The game is partly crowdfunded through a Kickstarter campaign which has, at the time of writing, reached CHF 19’178 of its goal of CHF 20’000 with only few days left until it ends on November 23! The game is under development already, and you can download a demo. The glimpse of the game I got while playing the demo already transported me back to the days when I was but a young nerd. At the same time, the game mechanics are really quite unique, akin to a puzzle, and make for dynamic and fun gameplay. In a gaming landscape that often produces dark and gritty and tough worlds, it’s also nice to see a wholesome and sweet game like this. The Nintendo kid in me has always preferred the cheery and magical universes over the edgy ones. Lastly, I loved the little homages and references to different aspects of gaming culture that the Letters’ world is strewn with.”There’s a little bit of each of us in the story,” Martina says.

Continue reading “Letters Challenges Gender Norms in Games”

How much grandstanding can a good deed suffer?

By Nicolas Malzacher

A gust of wind whips at my face and heaves me forward, over the ridge of the oncoming wave. The neon sail impatiently tugs at my waist, forcing me to lean back over the white crests of the Aegean. A sly bead of sweat and brine escapes my eyebrow, only to be received unhappily by my iris. I flinch and blink and try to clear my vision, but it’s too late: I miss a particularly insidious wave, lose my balance, and am catapulted over the bow of my fickle vehicle. The cackling of a passing seagull tells me that I cut an ungainly flying figure indeed. 

I cough up some salt water and heave myself back onto my board, grappling for the rope to haul up the sunken sail. However, I notice a stowaway that has made itself comfortable on the rope; a blue plastic bag from the local supermarket. I remove the fare dodger and throw it back into the water, only to immediately regret doing so. 

Continue reading “How much grandstanding can a good deed suffer?”

Elif Shafak – a Gem of Contemporary Turkish Literature

By Leah Süss

After four semesters of studying English, I have realized that the novels that touch me most belong to the field of postcolonial literatures. However, my interest in “non-Western” literature had already been sparked years before university. I realised early on that immersing into a different culture’s experiences and its stories can be highly enriching, as it allows me a better understanding of other people’s realities, which finally enabled more tolerance and a better understanding of the world’s complexity. Reading a story of a white woman’s struggles in early Europe, for example, is touching as it seems to be easy to identify with the protagonist. But what about being confronted with a Kurdish male character who decides to kill his mother in the name of honour? This may sound less comfortable but, all in all, it can be extremely helpful to understand important issues with religious and cultural differences that are still prevalent today.                                                            

One of my favourite authors who allowed me such an experience is Elif Shafak. Having read almost every novel of hers, I count three of her books to my all-time favourites. Currently, I am reading her latest novel, and she keeps amazing me. Thus, I would like to introduce you to this talented and inspiring Turkish woman.

Continue reading “Elif Shafak – a Gem of Contemporary Turkish Literature”

Hidden Swiss Treasures

By Alina Mamedova

What things or who are considered to be the main hallmarks of Switzerland? Swiss cheese? Swiss chocolate? Swiss knives? Swiss fondue and raclette? Roger Federer? Swiss banks? Well, and how about figure skating? In my experience, myriad people do not relate figure skating to Switzerland at all, and I cannot wait to show you that these two have a lot to do with each other.

Here, I need to take a little time with a preamble before pushing forward. I am myself a foreign student, who did not know much about Switzerland before coming here. What did I know about this amazing country? Of course, I knew that Switzerland was kind of a wonderland with its amazing nature, fresh air, the best chocolate in the world, ski resorts, and, strange to many of my Swiss friends as it may sound – Stephane Lambiel, Sarah Meier, and Denise Biellmann. The cream of the crop of Swiss and international figure skating.

Continue reading “Hidden Swiss Treasures”

What Was the “Matrix” Trilogy All About?

Matrix 1

By Gabriel Renggli

The Matrix movies are a strange beast. The Matrix redefined the action genre, using cinematography, choreography, costumes, and special effects to raise shoot-outs and punch-ups to new levels of stylisation. The Matrix Reloaded was bigger, louder, and less focused, but cool enough to have our teenage selves excited, for the most part. The Matrix Revolutions was my first big lesson in how thoroughly an anticipated production can let down its fan base. Revolutions helped to get underway some considerable backlash, as people started looking more critically at the other two films, too. By now, the consensus seems to be that we allowed ourselves to be taken in by a case of form over substance. As in: boy, did these films ever look good, but, boy, did they make no sense at all from a story-telling or philosophical point of view.

Continue reading “What Was the “Matrix” Trilogy All About?”