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“Der goalie bin ig.” A Swiss film phenomenon by Sabine Boss

25.09.2014 – Stéphane Herzog

Directed by Sabine Boss, “Der Goalie bin ig!”, which won the 2014 Swiss Film Award for best fiction film, is a phenomenon.

This gem of a movie, which recounts in flashback the story of a former junkie let down by his childhood friends, has been seen by over 120,000 people since its release. The film touches the hearts of the Swiss for a number of reasons. First of all, there is the language, Bernese dialect which rolls in the mouth of Goalie, a phenomenal loser, conveying some great lines in the process.  These aphorisms and wordplay were crafted by Pedro Lenz, the Swiss author with a Spanish mother who wrote the novel (also in dialect) that inspired the film.
The character known as Goalie, whose name we learn at the end is Ernst, is something of a Swiss anti-hero. He is both naive and virtuous, a Christ-like figure as he atones for the sins of others without seeking vengeance. As a child, he takes the place of a nerd put between the goalposts (a position given to those who do not know how to play football) to save the boy from a hammering. The Goalie takes a beating in place of the weak and accepts the consequences, even though it later earns him no solicitude from the person whose skin he saved. As an adult, the Goalie serves a prison sentence for people who were not worth it. He discovers that his old friends have used him as bait but he refrains from violence, preferring to seek exile in the city (Berne). So he says goodbye to Schummertal and Regula, who decides to stick with an idiotic ruffian. 
Cinema-goers have greatly enjoyed this touching, powerful Swiss film which, like all good stories, possesses universal values. The goalie is a scapegoat but is strong enough to escape when the time comes. As for the Switzerland portrayed in the film, it is not the most appealing depiction as the movie’s characters are limited and spineless, with the notable exception of the town cop and Regula, who opens her heart to the Goalie when he reveals the story of his nickname to her.  
Sabine Boss’ direction is subtle and supported by haunting and exhilarating steel guitar music. It is good to see the soundtrack featuring the band Zuri West, the stars of Swiss rock in the 1980s, which is when the action takes place.