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Kaltes Land ("Cold Country")en

"'Things from outside are not good for you in hard times,' says the Pastor of an isolated village somewhere in the mountains. A statement intended to protect his flock, devised with the hermetic village community in mind. At the same time, it is intended even more as self-protection. Unspoken truths should remain exactly what they have always been: covered up, non-existent.
It is no use. The outside world finds its way in, travellers from the city, even now, just before the snow falls. Tobias for instance. He talks to Hanna. Hanna, who stands on the square in front of the railway station whenever she is not having to help out her father, whom she calls the 'Lad', on the farm or the Pastor, who imposes physical intimacy on her, at the cemetery. She tells Tobias about the calving cow, the smelly old man and Macolvi's daughter who sings in the mountains.
Times are always hard. Something that is also true for Hanna's family. Her brother died two years ago, and his death holds an open family secret. When everything is revealed, all that remains is to keep silent - or run amok.
Cold Country deploys a sparse, poetic language and highly intense characters to show what it is like when the corset forced on us no longer fits and almost threatens to burst. What it is like when a new start is bound to fail because we know nothing but our own world, are imprisoned in our own cosmos."
(Fischer Verlag)

Responses to the Play:

"Cold Country is Finger's toughest, most forceful play and an indigestible lump of Switzerland, of the kind we are familiar with from Swiss films. Fredi M. Murer's Alpine Fire (1985), in which a brother and sister sink ever deeper into their incestuous love on a secluded alp while their dead parents lie laid out in the snow, is one of the best known and most successful. At least there is no incest in Finger, but all sorts of other forbidden goings on, it is not quite clear whether the Pastor once abused the young Hanna, maybe he did. And it only gradually emerges that her brother Melk did not fall from a cliff out of 'melancholy', but was driven into a fatal test of courage by his father.
[…] The whole perceptual world of the obdurate, 'pig-headed' Bergler family circles obsessively around the gloomy tale of 'Macolvi's daughter', a girl who once created a Golem-like being, the 'Toggel', which ultimately robbed her of her worldly life and resurrected her as a kind of Loreley of the Alps.
It is a pagan world of symbols that descends upon the family, as if the Devil had come among them. After Melk, the animals die as well, a calf is stillborn, the cow no longer stands up, finally the father hangs himself, Hanna murders the Pastor and flees into the mountains just as the 'Vulture Girl', another free spirit, once fled. She presents herself as a sexless mythical being, eventually killing another old boyfriend and pretty certainly herself as well. But we cannot be completely certain about this either… […] A play of laconic alpine romantic horror that, by its conclusion, has become part of a legendary Swiss world as well."
(Simone Meier, Theater Heute, 11/2006)

"The village girl Hanna is heading towards a bad end, she wants to turn her back on a homeland that is no longer hers. We see her listening to the natives and the off-comers, she listens patiently when people tell her the eerie mountain legend. Myths are fairy tales for grown-ups, but she is fed up of them because people use them to teach children to be afraid. During the passages where the talk is of terrifying fairy tales, we can only marvel at the simple, uneducated language. It flows onward, the words merge into a river. The characters are anything but monologue machines that mistake the stage for a philosophy seminar room. All their lives are spread out before us, they are drawn together by the strong story and a language that refrains from inauthentic poeticism."
(From the eulogy by Feridun Zaimoglu upon Finger's presentation with the Kleist Prize for Young Dramatists)

"Cold Country is not just a play about the world of the Swiss mountains, not Alpine dialect literature. Rather, it describes the rebellion of a young girl against the patriarchal world to which she is yet so closely tied, and her yearning for a life of her own. And it shows the threats hanging over a village structure that is in the process of dissolution, that holds on to its stories and legends, yet for a long time now has found itself being supplanted by an urban world, which has apparently reached a final state of enlightenment. This enters Hanna's life in the shape of Tobias, a tourist from the city who arrives by bus at the village's deserted railway station and meets Hanna there. Even if the city is just a bus journey away, a whole world separates Hanna and Tobias. But there is a connection between the two, as if they had merely been waiting for one another: the girl from the mountains waiting for the boy from the city, whom she sees as a promise of freedom and a more light-hearted way of life, while he is fascinated by the strange girl who knows how to climb mountains and is familiar with the laws of nature - as well as all sorts of stories about it that he finds incomprehensible. Almost like Jason and Medea, the two encounter each other as two poles from different worlds, each filling the emptiness in the other's life. There are two possibilities here, we realise at once: a great love story and a terrible tragedy."
(Thomas Laue, Theater Heute Jahrbuch 2006)

Technical Data:


6 October 2006, Nationaltheater Mannheim

Director Burkhard C. Kosminski
Swiss premiere: 24 May 2008
Director: Erik Altorfer
Cast 2 female, 3 male
Rights S. Fischer Verlag GmbH, Theaterabteilung
Hedderichstr. 114
D-60596 Frankfurt/Main
Postfach 700355, 60553 Frankfurt/Main
Tel.:+49 69 6062271, Fax:+49 69 6062355
Translations Theatre Library


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