Retreat is currently awaiting a UK release date.
Sometimes the power of a film is held in its moments of silence. Leon Schwitter’s delicate and stunning deconstruction of a father and son relationship, Retreat (Réduit), is one of those films. Shot among the majestic beauty of the Swiss Alps, Retreat is a visual spectacle, a celebration of wilderness and nature that delights in submerging us into the sensory depths of the mountains and forests. Many will label Schwitter’s movie a survival drama; however, its roots go much deeper as we follow Michael (Peter Hottinger) and his son Benny (Dorian Heiniger) as they reconnect in a remote mountain cabin.
Benny hasn’t seen his father for some time following family separation, but what starts as a holiday quickly morphs into something far more unnerving as Benny realises his dad has chosen to escape humanity. Michael believes society is heading for disaster, and his mountain home offers the only chance of survival. Michael loves his son with all his heart, but will his need to protect him at all costs place them both at risk as the mountain snow begins to fall, and the cabin retreat becomes a prison.
Schwitter isn’t afraid of silence, which only increases the sensory depth and slow-building tension as the green mountains and forests are coated in thick snow. As the snow builds, the atmosphere becomes claustrophobic, and the psychological dimensions of a fractured father and son relationship become clear. Benny grows before our eyes as he realises his dad cannot survive without him, while Michael becomes more unstable in his actions and beliefs. Hottinger and Heiniger’s performances are nothing short of outstanding as they captivate, unnerve and enthral through a simple look, gesture or action as the winter takes hold and life becomes a fight for survival.
However, the final act of Retreat proves the most fascinating as the divide between a father and son melts away to create a shared worldview born from isolation and wrapped in a delicate, uncertain love. As we leave Benny and Michael, we are ultimately left with far more questions than answers and an uneasy feeling that their story is only just beginning.
THE FEAST (REVIEW)
Switzerland | 1hr 22mins | 2022
Schwitter isn’t afraid of silence, increasing the film’s sensory depths and slow-building tension as the green mountains and forests are coated in thick snow. As the snow builds, the atmosphere becomes claustrophobic, and the psychological dimensions of a fractured father and son relationship become clear.