Switzerland / France, 1976 (MIFF 1977)
Director: Alain Tanner
Alain Tanner, whose earlier films from Salamander to The Middle of the World, were shown in previous Festivals in Melbourne, has created the most ambitious and complex of his socio-political comedies to date in Jonas. As in his earlier works Tanner's main preoccupation is with ideas, in this film he deals with the effects of the political upheaval of the late sixties on those who lived through them Tanner and his script writer the English Marxist painter and author John Berger have created eight characters, who are introduced individually or in couples, and whose lives, through careful construction of the story, gradually intermesh.
The main character, who sets events into motion, is Max, an ex-member of a leftist group who finds out that business interests are trying to get hold cheaply of the properties of a group of farmers, for industrial development Warning the farmers, he manages to thwart the plans of the developers In the course of his investigations, Max meets a yoga- and, especially sex-oriented secretary who works for a banker involved in the land deal A teacher of history falls in love with a French girl, who works as a cashier in a supermarket in Switzerland, a charitable eccentric who under-charges poorer customers Finally, she is caught and goes to jail, while the teacher loses his job because of his unorthodox methods A factory worker and his wife, who wants more and more children, decides to work on the land, obtains a job with a farmer, but ends up by creating a private school for the children of the neighbourhood, to save them from being ruined by the State school system The farmer prefers animals to human beings, and is full of animal love, from the breeding cycle of ticks to the language of whales.
The debates, reminiscences dreams and fears of these eight characters form the real content of this didactic, yet unfailingly entertaining film.
Alan Tanner said: ‘None of the Jonas characters is really a character. They are two-legged metaphors... Jonas is an attempt at reconciling two things that may be irreconcilable: entertainment and meaningfulness.'