Yesterday night, I went to see Grounding - the final days of Swissair. I really like the movie.

But first, some expectations management: I did not expect to gain any factual information as to what exactly led to the downfall of the once proud national carrier of Switzerland. And indeed, that's not what you get. At the onset, there are a few minutes of summary about the political & managerial errors committed which led to the default, but that's that.

The real drama unfolds in the fall of 2001, when the already dire economic condition of the firm is aggravated by a succession of management changes and the final coup de grâce of 9/11. The movie demonstrates very effectively and almost in the style of a classical tragedy how a slowly building development may find its nerve shattering climax within a very short timespan. The ambition and, at the same time, the helplessness of most players are unnerving. The 24-like rythm of the piece contributes a lot to that - we're only missing: Previously on the Balsberg ...

There's some less savoury subtext, though. The inner machinations of the actual crisis are not really known, and are likely never to become public knowledge. The film posits a conspiracy of the villainous Basle gang, consisting of Ospel (UBS) with his sadistic lawyer sidekick & Suter (Crossair), against the formerly arrogant Zürich boys (and girl) around Mühlemann (Credit Suisse) and Corti (Swissair), who are defeated & in full retreat. The fact that Swissair was grounded proves that the Basle gang won. Until now, I thought the traditional regional feud between Basle & Zürich was pretty much tongue in cheek, but maybe not. Funny how federal councilor Villiger with his own numerate sidekick are characterised in an almost gnomish way.

The failure of Swissair is one of the most important events in the recent history of Switzerland. It will be interesting to observe whether Grounding will initiate the long overdue katharsis in public opinion. This is not at all improbable, since we are currently observing the long agony of the publicly funded successor of Swissair, which I think will come to a final conclusion within the year.


The Big Finn said...

I would love to see this movie, but alas, my German is nicht sehr gut. There aren't any English untertitel by any chance, are there? Or, do I have to wait for the DVD?

Chris said...

No subtitles, I am afraid - except German ones, in the parts where Italian is spoken. It gets worse: they actually speak Swiss German, so it would likely have to be dubbed to bring it to Germany even. Don't know about the DVD version.