Vague Visages’ Mad Heidi review contains minor spoilers. Johannes Hartmann and Sandro Klopfstein’s 2022 movie stars Alice Lucy, Max Rüdlinger and Casper Van Dien. Check out the VV home page for more film reviews, along with cast/character summaries, streaming guides and complete soundtrack song listings.
There’s a war going inside the minds and guts of dairy lovers. Personally, my love for cheese has taken me down some dark roads, both domestically and across Europe. Mad Heidi, a Swissploitation production from filmmakers Johannes Hartmann and Sandro Klopfstein, imagines a world in which corrupt officials hold the threat of death over lactose intolerant individuals. Admission to the show doesn’t require basic knowledge of the grindhouse sub-genre, but casual moviegoers should know that the film’s dark humor derives from political concepts rather than real-world tragedies. Mad Heidi’s magical realism pokes fun at Swiss culture but does so with style and an appropriate amount of sensitivity.
Mad Heidi’s conflict boils down to fate and familial loyalty. In the Swiss Alps, a 24-year-old woman named Heidi (newcomer Alice Lucy, a Keira Knightley doppelgänger) falls in love with a Black cheese dealer known as Goat Peter (Kel Matsena). Meanwhile, government officials spread propaganda about illegal dairy products. In this world, President Melli (Casper Van Dien) associates cheese skeptics with foreign threats, resulting in a scheme to create “Ultra Swiss” — a special cheese that makes people “dumb as fuck,” as the chief cheese scientist, Dr. Schwitzgebel (Pascal Ulli), so articulately explains to his superiors. When Heidi tries to escape fate, she trains with a spiritual mentor and targets the diabolical Kommandant Knorr (Max Rüdlinger), a Big Bad with a boner for badass cheese (my words, not his).
Mad Heidi Review: Related — Know the Cast & Characters: ‘Survival of the Thickest’
A wink-of-the-eye film like Mad Heidi benefits from familiarity and claustrophobia. It’s crucial to not only immerse viewers in a fictional world, but also to keep them there. For example, Hartmann and Klopfstein stay consistent with their visual design and cultural references during the opening act. Furthermore, they define all of the main characters through heavy-handed dialogue and interstitial graphics, which inform casual viewers about the overall tone. An early twist allows for Cronenbergian body horror, which essentially functions as the inciting incident. In addition, the combination of wide shots from cinematographer Eric Lehner, choppy cuts via the editing team (Jann Anderegg, Claudio Cea, Isai Oswald) and Spaghetti Western-style music from composer Mario Batkovic takes pressure off the main performers, all of whom portray archetypes instead of fully-developed characters.
Mad Heidi Review: Related — Soundtracks of Cinema: ‘The Out-Laws’
Mad Heidi’s Most Valuable Performer award goes to the aforementioned Rüdlinger, an actor who would feel right at home in a wonderfully ridiculous genre film like Basket Case (1982) or Malignant (2021). And though Lucy and Van Dien don’t receive strong dialogue, both performers — along with Rebecca Dyson-Smith as Lutz — command the screen with their charisma and charm. Unfortunately, Mad Heidi loses momentum during a final act set piece, in which the filmmakers stray from their visual design in favor of questionable costumes and fight sequences. Still, even with some obvious structural flaws, Mad Heidi is a sassy Swissploitation film worth watching (it’s the only one in existence) and undeniably one of the best Swiss cheese-themed movies of the 21st century.
Mad Heidi releases theatrically and digitally on July 21, 2023 via Raven Banner.
Q.V. Hough (@QVHough) is Vague Visages’ founding editor.
Mad Heidi Review: Related — Know the Cast: ‘Malignant’