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Lubo – London Film Festival 2023


Just when it seemed that all the Second World War injustices had finally been revealed, along comes Switzerland with a secret past which only ended in the 1970s. Italian director Giorgio Diritti directs Franz Rogowski in one man’s quest to find his stolen children.

The Moser family, led by father Lubo (Franz Rogowski) are Jenisch, a community of travelling people who make a living through street performances in and around Switzerland. In 1939, Lubo is conscripted into the Swiss army to defend the border against the Germans, and learns soon afterwards that his wife died while trying to prevent the authorities from taking away their three children. Lubo resolves to be reunited with his children, and the film bearing his name follows him and the extraordinary decisions he takes to try to achieve this. The following two decades take Lubo into wealthy society in various parts of Switzerland and northern Italy as he pursues his aim.

Rogowski is an ideal choice for Lubo – a talented physical performer, he is a chameleon who can take on a number of personae as required, which is also how Lubo needs to operate. His quiet determination to find his children is totally understandable, and the lines between good and bad are blurred to such an extent that when things come to a head, it’s a bit of a shock to realise exactly what has happened.

As you would imagine, Rogowski is faultless, but both he and the kernel of the story being told – the complicity of the Swiss authorities in forcibly removing traveller children from their parents – are shown a disservice by an unnecessarily long runtime. Lubo comes in at just over three hours, and reaches its devastating denouement quite swiftly so that by the end the balance feels somewhat off. A jolly good edit would have done wonders; or even, perhaps, the original book provides sufficient material for a mini-series which might have allowed all of the stories to be told?

Lubo plays at the London Film Festival from 10th October 2023.

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