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Offshore

[…] This is probably a contradiction that stains Switzerland’s reputation: the cohabitation of a strict respect for the commons and an unscrupulous respect for financial freedom – which also suggests the strange cohabitation of rigour and flexibility with the law.

[…] one highlight is the discovery of the typical Swiss personality of Rudolf Elmer, whose character stems from the combination of an honest sense of rightness and a candid propensity towards anarchism – which is not so far from our perception of William Tell’s character…

Even if one takes Werner Schweizer’s Offshore only as a political statement on the financial system and its lack of ethics, it is certainly an important statement, or at least one that should urgently be discussed in the public forum. But this film deserves more than a (even mandatory) political discussion on the topic. In this filmically nice documentary, one highlight is the discovery of the typical Swiss personality of Rudolf Elmer, whose character stems from the combination of an honest sense of rightness and a candid propensity towards anarchism – which is not so far from our perception of William Tell’s character… Schweizer’s intention is not to make Elmer a hero, but to denounce his public persecution. Through this particular story, where the border between private and public is blurred, we discover two interesting things: not only that the banking system seeks to imitate the romantic deeds of pirates more than the civil behaviour of citizens, but also that the Swiss justice system seems to loose its legendary (public) neutrality to defend the (private) interests of the banks. This is probably a contradiction that stains Switzerland’s reputation: the cohabitation of a strict respect for the commons and an unscrupulous respect for financial freedom – which also suggests the strange cohabitation of rigour and flexibility with the law. If this reflection is legitimate, then Offshore is particularly instructive, because such a contradiction seems to affect everyone: Elmer, the Bär brothers, the judge, probably even Schweizer himself, as he appears to advocate democratic citizenship as well as an anarchist utopia at the same time. Even if the offshore financial world is a global phenomenon, the interesting experience Offshore gives us results in a deeper understanding of Switzerland and the political psychology of Swiss people. The premodern values on which this country was founded are probably still alive and they speak a language that finds itself at home in the ruins of modern rule of law; a language that is quite contemporary. There is a lot for us to experience and learn from in Werner Schweizer’s Offshore.

Text: Giuseppe Di Salvatore

First published: May 09, 2016

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