CH 1997 53'
Facing the crisis of their lives, six young farmers from a small village decide to pool their livestock in an enormous community stable. Unthinkable in normal times in such an individualistic society, this novel solution shows just how much people have been forced to change their ways. This tender and ironic film chronicles the three years it took to complete the project.
CAMPAGNE PERDUE opens with scenes of an angry farmers’ demonstration, followed by a flashback to more idyllic times: slowed-down archival footage of the “lost countryside” and its archaic implements and gestures. How did farming change between the 1930s and the 1990s, and how can Swiss farmers face the new challenges? Stéphane Goël, himself a farmer’s son, attempts to answer these questions in microcosm as he chronicles the attempt by a group of dairy farmers in the Canton of Vaud to establish a communal system for managing their cattle.
The film follows the six men – including Goël’s own brother – from the birth of their project in winter 1994 to the first-year anniversary of their collective stable in spring 1997. With sincerity and tact, Goël talks to the farmers and their families, documents their meetings, and observes their work through the changing seasons. The film is punctuated by tableaux shots of farm life, and acquires some tension through statements by older neighbours who react with varying degrees of pessimism and critique to the unorthodox farming project. For this collective flies in the face of the longstanding Swiss tradition of individualist farming. “The kolkhoz didn’t work” sneers one elderly man, while others marvel at the project’s modern computer technology. But in the face of new challenges brought by the liberalization of agriculture and the resulting loss of farming subsidies, the farmers of Goël’s generation need to invent new ways of farming in order to survive.
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