Review: It Must (2021)

Courtesy of Locarno Film Festival

Some days are tougher than others. And when it all goes badly wrong everyone reacts in different ways…but after Silvia (Ruth Schwegler) endures a series of unpleasant event she manages to find her own act of defiance that both solitary and gently uplifting.

Managing to be both intimate and distanced at the same time, the affecting short It Must (En muss), directed by Flavio Luca Marano and Jumana Issa, may well be modest in tone, structure and content but it manages to strike a chord in terms of contemporary living and how distanced people have become from one-another. The moments of drama are snatched from everyday life and feel prescient and worrying familiar.

The film opens with Silvia walking into her underground (almost bunker-like) carpark and heading off on her journey to work. An unsmiling man ambles over a crossing staring at her (offering perhaps a hint of things to come) before she arrives at her office. First one in, she switches on the lights, clears things up in the kitchenette and set about her work. Efficient but uninspired, she is clearly at ease and a fixture at the office.

Things take a turn for the worst when she is summoned into for a meeting with a matter-of-fact young colleague holding a mug and an electronic tablet. Apparently her position is being restructured and – as the young woman says – “we have to terminate your current employment according to labour law provisions,” adding that is it inconvenient that it happens to be four years before Silvia is set to retire.

Despite being thanked for her devotion, Silvia – rather naturally – responds by saying simply “why me?” But also she gets in return is the by-the-numbers response from the young HR woman about being allowed time to look for a new job and being offered two psychological consultations, before being speedily shepherded out of the glass office.

With added irony, as Silvia sees out her day, the self-same young woman is sat almost opposite her in their open-place office, a picture of bland efficiency and lack of empathy or compassion.

A similar lack of empathy or compassion is offered up soon after by the young policewoman who stops Silvia as she is driving to her choir rehearsal for ignoring a stop sign. As she being reprimanded by the officer and young man walks by, smiling in a superior and smug fashion.

For the briefest of moments to cop appears to show some kind of emotion when Silvia explains why the car ownership documents are in her husband’s name despite them being separated for some time, but this is just so she can lean closer to the window to explain the documentation should have been changed, and there could be another penalty if it isn’t sorted out.

So far, the sisterhood has not offered much support for Silvia (and the couple of men on show here are disinterested and dismissive), but their appears at least a safe and encouraging environment when she arrives – a little late, due to her run-in with the law – at choir practice and takes her place alongside the eight other woman. But when she falters in her solo of Ave Maria, the director suggests it may be better is someone else took over.

Shot in an effective long-shot, Silvia has to step back to join their other women while Gabi is selected to take over. As the organ starts to play again, though, Silvia seems to regain her fortitude and composure, stand tall and forthright with legs slightly astride and with her chin raised and forward simply refuses to sing. Finally, after a long day of things going against her, she offers up her modest but effective act of silent resistance.

The film’s drama may well be familiar and straightforward, but the lack of support or empathy from those around her make Silvia’s troubling day all the more unbearable, with Flavio Luca Marano and Jumana Issa astutely using separation and distance to emphasise a modern world that seems cold and lacking in compassion.

Courtesy of Locarno Film Festival

Original Title: Es Muss
Country: Switzerland
Language: Swiss German
Runtime: 18′
Directed by: Flavio Luca Marano, Jumana Issa
Production: Zürcher Hochschule der Künste
Producer: Filippo Bonacci
Cinematography: Robin Angst
Editors: Flavio Luca Marano, Jumana Issa
With: Ruth Schwegler, Lotti Happle