Being born in Turin, the alpine landscape has been a constant presence in my horizon. Ever since I was little I travelled all over the Alps, Italian and French, the discovery of nature. Rocks and meadows, springs and rivers, but also cows and sheep, snow and ski, are just some of the essential elements in my growth, visual souvenirs that I found again as stills from Alpi. A place is a state of mind, it is said, but in the case of the Alps, the opposite is the case: here, the state of mind is the place, independent of national and geographic circumstances. Armin Linke’s film is the result of seven years of research with the Alps as a focal point of global transformations, of modernity and its illusions. That is why the film starts with a crew from India, showing how they use the landscape of the Alps in relation to their own identity, a kind of reverse exoticism, perhaps unnecessary.
But the topic of non-places, especially in French Alps, of mountains largely built of barracks, and then been abandoned because of seasonal tourism, is something I have been introduced to by Mario Matto, professor of Economics and Tourism Policies at Università degli Studi di Torino. The revitalization and development of the tourism sector being essential, to ensure a stable employment base for the population that still lives in the mountains. Also proposed by Reinhold Messner who writes in Geo December 2006 under the title “Farewell to the Alps”: “What the culture of the city has resulted in the mountains is an irresponsible, uncivilized, mass tourism of robbery. Cement has filled the valleys and peaks of cable cars and lifts. A savage and brutal assault is giving the last shot alpine habitat. I’m not against tourism, but you have to control it, bring it back to the rules, get used to a slower pace”. In a nutshell, we face a lack of the famous term of professor Matto, sustainable tourism, in respect of local traditions and culture.
As Armin Linke, who directed the research together with Renato Rinaldi and Piero Zanini, says: “The film works like a spaceship that transports viewers from one place to another, between seven countries and five different languages, but without telling them. Basically it’s a kind of space machine, and you never declare to the audience that you are transporting them to another place. So it always questions more than it explains. I see this as a game with the viewer”. The scenes are not only shifting from place to place, but from question to question, from theme to theme. So we find Pastore Giordano the 75-year-old sheppard who decided to live alone instead of going for job at the factory in the valley, the police trainings at Académie de Police in St. Maurice, Switzerland; an Olympic touch at the Bergisel Ski Jump Tower in Innsbruck, Austria. A fragment of the No Tav protest in Val di Susa, Italy. For all the people that are born, raised or who just spent some moments of their life in the Alps, these issues are glimpses of life events, personal experiences and vicissitudes that have marked and still mark the contemporary alpine culture.
Alpi was produced by Studio Armin Linke, Germany, 2011, 62m.