By Josh Reilly B. and George Bate
Chicago’s International Film Festival is in full swing now as the twelve day event takes over the downtown area of the famous city and brings with it some remarkable new films. Titles like Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery and The Whale are two of the most anticipated films to premiere here, but there’s plenty of other amazing movies on display. Suffice to say, this is a film fan’s dream.
One of the films here is A Piece of Sky, written and directed by Michael Koch. Set in a remote village of Switzerland, Koch’s film centers on two young lovers who are dealt impossible odds that include a devastating health diagnosis and Marco, one of the pair, behaving erratically. A Piece of Sky is up for consideration for Best Foreign Film at 2022’s CIC, and originally debuted at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year.
Marco, played by Simon Wisler, is a hard working man who is more than used to physical work and manual labor. Opposite him is his lover Anna, with the pair making an unlikely duo that are put to the test after Marco’s headaches lead to a diagnosis of a brain tumor. An operation is possible but very difficult, and the odds are high that he will not be the same Marco from before after everything is finished. Simply put, Koch has crafted a truly unique story here that is gripping in its execution and contrasting nature of the setting and the journeys of the characters. The Swiss Alps, the small village and everything in this film looks so picturesque and visually appealing, but theres more than what meets the eye. Sometimes, as Marco and Anna’s story highlights, hardship can occur even in the most beautiful of places.
For an American audience, the setting is bound to be one of the most striking elements of this film. It’s a far cry from some of the typical locations seen in western films, and virtually the complete opposite of a big city like New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago, making A Piece of Sky refreshing and different.
What also stands out about this film is the direction and writing of Koch, who takes some bold risks with his handling of the story. There are some moments when the audience might erroneously assume that the theater’s screen has frozen, such is the nature of Koch’s directing. The camera often hones in and focuses on a shot for more than a minute, which adds to the deliberately slow placed nature of the film. It’s almost a disservice to describe A Piece of Sky as a slow paced venture as there really is no pacing at all. That’s purposeful and a large part of Koch’s style. It feels like a peak into the lives of others more than anything else. For that reason, this film feels raw and real.
Its realness extends to the love story and, for all the tension surrounding Marco’s diagnosis and everything else that occurs, is the heart of this film. It’s about love over all else, making for a riveting and emotional watch.
A Piece of Sky is a refreshing viewing and a film with a unique viewpoint on the classic love tale. Michael Koch is in the director’s chair, having also written the screenplay, and the uniqueness he brings to the visuals and storytelling make this film truly memorable.