Graphic Novel

Inspired by daily life – Kati Rickenbach

Lela slips out of her bed and glancing in the mirror, finds traces of the night on her neck. She is startled to spot a huge love bite and realises immediately that she blacked out. It is Sunday afternoon, Lela has slept away half the day and her head is throbbing like mad. She feels not only physically ill but also miserable, as she neither knows who gave her the testimony to love, nor what happened the previous night, nor how she got home. “Hmmm … so I went to a party at Nina’s…” Lela can certainly remember the beginning of an evening where the alcohol was flowing freely - but what happened later? She has no choice but to phone her best friend straightaway and attempt to reconstruct the evening.

Filmriss is the convincing comic album debut of the Swiss-born Kati Rickenbach, who was born in Basel in 1980 and now lives and works in Zurich. With great irony, this comic book illustrator re-tells the chaotic events of one party night during which young people’s yearnings collide. Her young protagonists combat unrequited love and the undesired consequences of drug consumption, because the greater the intoxication during the party, the more painful the hangover the following morning. In her entertaining and episodic tale, Rickenbach develops a whole range of inter-human relations that have direct parallels to Arthur Schnitzler’s play La Ronde. This rondeau of relationships never stops as each person is afraid they might lose their partner for life. Regardless of whether the protagonists are in a fixed relationship or are solo, ‘lonely in a crowd’ they give in to the intoxication of the night and as a result are incapable of recognising whether they are with the right partner or not. However for Kati Rickenbach it is not simply about the trials and tribulations of growing up. The more that Lela discovers about what's happening during the night, the more she realises that what was initially a carefree party has tipped over into precisely the opposite.

In an interview Kati Rickenbach emphasised that Filmriss is not autobiographical, at least not ‘ostensibly’. However, Rickenbach does admit that the characters “are very near to my own world” in their behaviour and their language. This is because the illustrator enjoys being inspired by daily life, which is hardly surprising, as she originally wanted to be a journalist. However she had always drawn, which led to her studying at the Schule für Gestaltung (Design) and here it was here that she decided to combine design with storytelling and drawing - and so came to comic books. She studied at the Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst in Lucerne. During her semester abroad she went to Hamburg and came into contact with the dynamic young German comic book scene surrounding Sascha Hommer and Arne Bellstorf, and published her first comic book stories in their comic anthology Orang. Further comic book stories by Rickenbach appeared in Panik-elektro and Flitter as well as the periodical Strapazin. For some time now the rising comic book illustrator Rickenbach has been viewed as an established illustrator. When, in the summer of 2006, she was asked to represent Mike van Adenhove, a caricaturist local to Zurich, for the city magazine Züritipp, it was like receiving an award.

Rickenbach’s moody comic strips about a young woman from Basle’s everyday experiences in an antagonistic Zurich quickly gained cult status and meant she became known to a broader public. It is the ostensible banalities of everyday life that Rickenbach filters out carefully and congenially and then enriches with her pointed humour. Her incomparably delightful yet dynamic strokes emphasise the delicacy with which she tells her stories.

Matthias Schneider is a cultural scientist, freelance cultural journalist and curator of film programs and exhibitions about comics.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut Sweden
December 2008