The Hearing

The Hearing ★★★

Solothurner Filmtage 2024 #2

The approach – having asylum seekers and current and former case workers from Switzerland's State Secretariat for Migration simulate an asylum hearing in all its uncomfortable ruthlessness, with the former telling their actual stories – is fascinating, even if the execution, with its immaculately framed shots, overemphatic bids for caustic irony, and didactic interludes, comes across like gentrified Farocki or Straub-Huillet at times.

Still, at the heart of this, there's the appropriately thorny question of whether there is even a difference between a real hearing and a simulated one, if all the spatial and procedural details as well as the people involved are the same. After all, they both ultimately turn on the asylum seeker reliving and performing genuine traumatic experiences and the case workers trying to dispassionately assess the account's believability. And while Gerig is understandably most interested in how this illustrates the Swiss asylum system's institutionalised cruelty and inhumanity, I think there's also a deeper point to be made here about how immigrants, and asylum seekers in particular, are expected to give narrative form to their life not just in the interrogation room but in their daily life as well.

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