‘Unrest’ Trailer: Watchmaking and Communism Collide in Unexpectedly Thrilling Festival Favorite

Trust us: Cyril Schäublin's Berlinale-winning drama about anarchists in the time of looming Communism is exciting stuff.

A drama set in the 1870s in the Swiss town of Saint-Imier and centered around the makers of timepieces may not sound like the stuff of thrilling cinema. But “Unrest,” Cyril Schäublin’s drama about the days and ways of watchmakers on the brink of an anarchist revolution, is indeed a quietly suspenseful and stirring piece, one that ticks toward social inevitabilities as Communist ideals begin to take over Europe. Exclusive to IndieWire, watch the trailer below before it hits theaters next month.

Swiss filmmaker Schäublin previously directed the 2017 Locarno prize winner “Those Who Are Fine,” and “Unrest” again found the director in the spotlight of the festival circuit. He won the Encounters Award at the 2022 Berlin Film Festival for “Unrest,” where the jury said, “With a strange and unsettling calm, the film immerses the viewer in a moment where ideals of collectivity and anarchism confront the encroaching powers of capitalism and the erosion of worker’s time. As exacting in its cinematographic decisions, as the watches we see being assembled.”

In “Unrest,” technologies are transforming a 19th-century watchmaking town in Switzerland. Josephine, a young factory worker, produces the unrest wheel, swinging in the heart of the mechanical watch. Exposed to new ways of organizing money, time and labor, she gets involved with the local movement of the anarchist watchmakers, where she meets Russian traveler Pyotr Kropotkin, the Russian Anarcho-communist philosopher.

Over at Variety, Jessica Kiang wrote in her review of the film, “Inside a traditionally made clockwork watch, such as the factories of Bern would have been producing at the time, there is a tiny spiral wheel that balances the mechanism, called the unrueh — the unrest. This dainty coincidence of echoing terminology at most might raise a ‘huh’ from those of us into wordplay and social history and Twitter accounts that exclusively post images of machinery at work. But for Swiss director Cyril Schäublin, it becomes the kernel of ‘Unrest,’ a gorgeously playful oddity glimmering with insight into ideology, photography, cartography, telegraphy, celebrity, solidarity, the flow of capital, the unruliness of time and the somehow noble lunacy of trying to tame such a massive concept into a brass doodad small enough to fit in a waistcoat pocket.”

KimStim opens “Unrest” on May 5 in New York at Film at Lincoln Center and May 19 in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Santa Monica, with other dates to follow. Watch the exclusive trailer below.

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