It's not surprising that many foreign directors have chosen to film in Switzerland, with its chalets, mountains and banks. It's a land of spies and lawyers, of Heidi and Chaplin, of Dr Frankenstein and St Bernards. Switzerland, in the movies, is a land of adventure where James Bond drives through an alpine setting and jumps off a dam while Clint Eastwood climbs to the top of the Eiger.
The images were recently published in the book Backdrop Switzerlandexternal link. Mostly taken from the vast collection of the Cinémathèque Suisse and arranged by Cornelius Schregle, they form a curious journey into the soul of Switzerland – and its clichés.
Countless stars have come to Switzerland to shoot, for example Sophia Loren, Kirk Douglas, Vittorio Gassman, Sean Connery, Paul Newman and Peter Sellers. Others, such as Elizabeth Taylor, James Mason and Audrey Hepburn, chose to call the Alpine nation home. But the pictures also reflect an imaginary Switzerland, a fantasy world built in Hollywood and studios all around the globe.
Laurel and Hardy are lost in the Alps, which are made of cardboard; Matt Damon as Jason Bourne merely steps onto a sound stage of Zurich built in Prague; Leonardo di Caprio as the Wolf of Wall Street is superimposed on a green-screen’s virtual Geneva.
A Switzerland idolised by foreign films will make you laugh or cry, depending on your point of view. But that is part of a fascinating concept: what if this country were basically just a huge movie set?