The Night Is Brighter than the Day

Andreas Walser: The Brief Life of a Painter

Die Nacht ist heller als der Tag is the first film to be made about the Swiss artist Andreas Walser, who died in Paris at the age of 22 presumably from an overdose of morphine and opium. Walser lived and worked between euphoria and despair, hope and a death wish. He left behind a substantial and singular oeuvre that was lost for decades. Surviving documents on Walser’s life tell such a profoundly moving story that only an unusual aesthetic form can relate the drama: the film includes sequences of the artist’s letters and writing being read by actors in the recording studio, as well as the letters of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (read by Ueli Jäggi), warning the young artist about the damages of drug taking based on his own experiences.

Walser’s life and times are brought close to us with knowledge and compassion by film and opera director Daniel Schmid, journalist Stefan Zweifel, art historian Rudolf Koella and Emmanuel Wiemer who, 25 years ago, found most of Walser’s surviving work in a Parisian attic.
Walser’s universe is also mirrored visually, showing Paris as a nocturnal drama of illumination (camera: Matthias Kälin). The film also journeys to Marseille and Corsica, and to Andreas Walser’s native Grisons.

Biography Andreas Walser

On September 28, 1928, the young artist from Switzerland arrives in Paris to become a painter. He is soon drawn into the artistic and literary life of the great metropolis. Jean Cocteau introduces his “cher petit” to Picasso. Walser’s works appeal to the “master”, who negotiates the first sales of his work.

Walser, freed from social constraints and discovering his homosexuality, is fascinated by the seductive appeal of Parisian streets and cafés. Exuberant moments of euphoria are increasingly overshadowed by the conviction that only suffering can enable him to achieve greatness and depth. He attempts to ward off “infinite weariness” by taking opium and morphine and drinking to excess. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, writing from his own experience, warns Walser of the dire consequences of taking drugs.

In January 1930, Walser travels to Corsica with two friends, returning to Paris full of enthusiastic plans to paint all that he had seen at the Mediterranean. The euphoria is short-lived as he senses that his artistic energy will fade without the intensity of life in Paris. In addition, his health is failing and he feels incapable of producing “great work”.

Although he feels rejuvenated by the progress he’s making in his final paintings, he continues to be plagued by the misery of “being there where no one can help me.” Andreas Walser dies on March 19, 1930, shortly before his 22nd birthday, presumably from an overdose of drugs.