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'Caged birds': face-to-face in the Switzerland of the eighties

Caged Birds moves between prison drama and an impossible and tragic love story. Its two main characters, two spirits as tortured as they are anarchic, are inspired by the Swiss common criminal Walter Stürm, a prisoner who became well known for his constant escapes from prison and for being the black sheep of a wealthy family, and the lawyer and activist who obsessively defended her cause, Barbara Hug.

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With the Switzerland of the eighties as a backdrop and the historical context of the reform of its prison laws, in Pájaros enjaulados freedom is spoken again and again while its protagonist, the lawyer who embodies the fabulous German actress Marie Leuenberger with as much restraint as tear, she moves with difficulty on a crutch. His body broken by a failing kidney only finds solace in tobacco, morphine and fighting the system. His meeting with Stürm forms the backbone of this film about the limits of freedom, the intensity of which skyrockets thanks to the work of Leuenberger and that of the Swiss actor Joel Basman.

“Walter Stürm is our Che,” the lawyer tells her office colleagues when she tries to justify the efforts of her cause in favor of a prisoner who, between 1974 and 1995, escaped from prison up to eight times. With the appearance of a crazy and suicidal goblin, Joel Basman composes an elusive character, an absolute misfit who mixes his reflections on what freedom is with the impetus of an aimless anarchist.

Set in the heart of punk and in the midst of the groups that fought against the obsolete prison system in their country, Oliver Rihs's film works above all thanks to the layers of a complex female character, fascinating and self-destructive, a woman who falls in love with a criminal that contains the questions and paradoxes about what it means to be free. Without getting carried away by the most obvious, the film works in its attempt to get closer to the soul of this marginal and rebellious couple who seek their destiny on both sides of the law and prison.

Caged Birds


Oliver Rihs.

Cast: Marie Leuenberger, Joel Basman, Jella Haase, Anatole Taubman, Bibiana Beglau, Pascal Ulli, Beat Marti, Michael Schertenleib, Philippe Graber.

Genre: drama, Germany-Switzerland, 2021.

Duration: 118 minutes.

Premiere : January 14.

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