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One Long Winter Without Fire, April 22

49th San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA

Saturday, April 22, 2006
9:15 p.m. One Long Winter Without Fire
Greg Zglinski (Switzerland/Belgium, 2005)

(Tout un hiver sans feu). From the ominous opening shot of two crows soaring over the barren vistas of Switzerland's Jura mountains, Greg Zglinski's One Long Winter Without Fire warns us of a place where the potential for renewal is stunted, perhaps impossible. After the lives and livelihoods of Jean (a brooding Aurélien Recoing) and his wife Laure (Marie Matheron) are destroyed when the cowshed on their farm burns to the ground, killing their daughter, he is forced to find work in town while she enters a mental hospital. As Jean trudges through his lonely routine as a metalworker, he befriends Labinota (Gabriela Muskala), the plant cook, and her brother Kastriot (Blerim Gjoci), Kosovar refugees who fled Serbia after the civil war. His domestic world devastated by tragedy, Jean seeks refuge in his burgeoning friendship with Labinota. Like the flaming furnaces at the factory, she offers him a warm escape from the frosty, stagnated landscape dwarfing his empty farmhouse. The pair cultivates a cautious bond as they console each other over past losses and, ultimately, Jean is forced to choose between repairing a marriage on the verge of death and pursuing this new love. Winner of the Best First Film prize at the Venice Film Festival, this Swiss-Belgian coproduction by Polish director Zglinski offers a reconciliatory view of European unity in the aftermath of one of the many ethnic conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. The central characters' initial reluctance to trust one another, and their subsequent mutual support, serve as a metaphor for the need for global cooperation.

—Jenn Preissel

• Written by Pierre-Pascal Rossi. Photographed by Witold Plociennik. With Aurélien Recoing, Marie Matheron, Gabriela Muskala, Blerim Gjoci. (91 mins)