The fear of strangers is one of the dominant topics of the time. In Switzerland, political campaigns have often been carried out in recent years. I was increasingly interested in the phenomenon of the enemy, which obviously a part of society needs to function in an exemplary manner. No matter in which culture, in which country you look, everywhere people need catalysts on which they can project their fears, dissatisfaction and difficulties. Sometimes such diffuse rejection leads to dull, unreflected, right-wing violence.
I was concerned with the question of what inner adversity a youngster begins to hate the "stranger". I was particularly interested in his inner life, the drama of childhood.
"Silver Forest" is above all a film about a seeker. About a child in no man's land. The focus is on a completely apolitical and disoriented antihero in search of love, recognition and himself. Through his actions and provocations, he gives desperate cries for help, which nobody hears for a long time.
Nature and the forest play an important role in Silberwald. The vastness of the landscape, the roughness and cold of winter nature are metaphors for a society that can be brutal, excludes and rejects individuals.
The forest with its countless trees, branches and forked ways, figuratively stands for life with all its possibilities and seductions. Sascha stands alone and isolated in the middle of this forest. For him, the warm, homely light that comes from the hut of the far right reveals less something evil than a goal to be striven for in the darkness and despair of his current life. As in philosophy, evil does not only appear here in the form of the devil, the opponent who tempts people, but also as «Lucifer», the bringer of light.
For me, reduction, clarity and sobriety are central design elements. Authenticity and the search for it is everything to me. I have great respect for reality and loathe kitsch and sentimentality brought about by filmic means.
In order to be able to develop the book close to the manners, values and expectations of 15-16 year old boys, I did some preliminary research in various secondary schools in the Emmental.
I gave the youngsters questionnaires on everyday life, the idea of happiness, the future, fears and longings. I then held one-on-one interviews with almost 80 young people. I deepened interesting points from the questionnaire and gradually got an idea of how a teenager grows up in a remote village. In the interviews I was not only interested in their desires and fears - which are probably quite similar to those of the city's youth - I tried to investigate and question their attitudes towards violence, xenophobia and right-wing extremism.
It was striking how many of those questioned had latent, xenophobic ideas. They adopted this partly uncritically from their parents and grandparents, but also from current political smear campaigns that helped to consolidate their opinions. It was very irritating that very few of the children ever had personal contact with a foreigner.
Casting of young amateur actors
The search for suitable amateur actors took place over a longer period in the high schools in Bern, Burgdorf and Thun, as well as in the Rudolf Steiner schools in Ittigen and Bern and youth theaters in and around Bern. We cast a total of over 200 young Bernese and carefully selected the three main characters from them. Saladin Dellers (Sascha), Naftali Wyler (Patrick) and Basil Medici (Moni) are young people who already tell a story through their appearance, their facial expressions, which seem and act like childish, fragile and weak, as well as dangerous, cold and unpredictable can.
Preparation time/ Filming
In order to gently get the youngsters used to acting in front of the camera and to establish trust between them and us, we organized a trial week in the Emmental together with our cameraman Michael Leuthner and the acting coach Michael Neuenschwander. During this preparation period and also during the filming, I spoke very little with the young people about the story, its film characters and their psyche.
My concern was that they would try to play a role and would no longer be themselves and no longer authentic. In order to achieve authenticity in your game in front of the camera, I have incorporated a lot of your own character into your film role. None of the teenagers were allowed to read the script or extracts from it. I wanted them to be impartial and ignorant on the set, just as they are and then I confronted them in the scenes with the respective situations and tasks.