Here it is unfolding in front of the screen: it is a winding race track, never linear, made up of two distinct lanes. On the one hand, Alex Schwazer darts fast; on the other, silent and distressing, the shadow of doping. Theirs is a race, carried out along opposite directions that should never meet. It’s not a relay race, it’s not an obstacle course. What the athlete is called upon to face is a solitary race, a march developed at a sustained pace, with which to further and further distance, lap after lap, that hand ready to grab him, seduce him, graft his taste for victory with the least effort.
Alex managed to keep that lane all to himself, until he sanctioned his painstaking, demanding training with an Olympic gold medal in Beijing 2008. Step by step, his legs were parts of a fast-spinning engine. Feet and heart were connected by constant beats in a triumphal march destined to get wet with tears, remorse, falls and ascents. As we will point out in this review de The Alex Schwazer caseavailable at Netflix, that perfect synchronicity suddenly stops. The rhythm is lost in the space of stress, of a media interest that suffocates the athlete, weakening his ligaments, arteries, heartbeats and positive thoughts. Everything envelops Schwazer in a black cloud, until he loses his bearings and moves him towards that lane forbidden to him: that of doping.
And so, from distinct, distant realities, that of Schwazer and the epo become one. From that day in August 2012, the lane becomes single: now the Olympic champion must learn to challenge the specter of doping, must know it, put himself in its wake to challenge it, fight it, even at the cost of falling, stumbling, being reborn. Between right and wrong suspensions, manipulations and tampered tests, the story by Alex Schwazer is tinged with a thriller, stripping away every piece of fairy-tale work. The happy ending of a man who sacrifices himself to the god of sport becomes perfect material to be treated on the small screen. So incredible as to be the son of an imaginative mind, The Alex Schwazer case is divided into four parts, carefully tracing each piece of a painful mosaic on the fall of an athlete.
The Alex Schwazer case: the plot
Sports lovers remember certain events very well, and the one that saw the Olympic walker as the protagonist Alex Schwazer it is a memory that struggles to be erased from the mind. It was 2012 when the news that Schwazer tested positive for doping was released. Surprising everyone, the same athlete calls a press conference in Bolzano where he confirms what has been leaked, assuming all responsibility and judging himself guilty. It follows a disqualification from competitions for four years, which for an athlete is an infinite time. But not everything comes to harm, and so Schwazer relies on the hands of Sandro Donati, a coach active in the fight against doping. After a period of depression, Schwazer gets back on his feet to participate stronger than before at the Rio Olympics. Except that shortly before registering for the races, he will test positive again. Firm in his innocence, the champion will begin a legal battle with Donati, in an investigation that will affect both WADA and the International Athletics Federation. Judge Pelino will declare him innocent, confirming the suspicion of tampering with his urine by WADA to remove him from the races. Nonetheless, in the eyes of the federations Schwazer remains guilty, and for this reason suspended from competition until 2024.
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Marching in unknown places
The documentary work created by is a perfect interlocking mechanism Massimo Cappello. The director and creator sinks with both hands into the notional basin of an almost unreal story, succeeding in the difficult attempt to restore every twist without weakening its distressing and disconcerting scope, bordering on the detective story. That the documentary wants to inform and focus everything on the figure of Schwazer is made explicit right from the title; in fact, each episode puts the figure of the walker and his coach in the foreground, without however falling into a petulant hagiography.
Sure, the close-ups on the athlete, and the details on his eyes seem to steer the entire production astray, diverting it down paths beaten by false rhetoric. However, with attention and excellent dexterity, the director manages to regain control of the steering wheel, re-establishing his work on the right course. In doing so, within this puzzle colored by a gold missed at the Olympic Games, and the black of a shadow ready to incorporate, until canceling, the name of the athlete, Cappello adds a further nuance to his work: that of the conspiracy ready to suffocate the reality of the facts, covering them up under layers of obstructionism and denialism. After years of investigations and revelations, news stories and press releases, we thought we knew everything about the Alex Schwazer case. Cappello proved in just four episodes how wrong we were.
Super partes stories of amazing revelations
It takes and adds, subtracts and amazes the director with his Il Caso Alex Schwazer. Pursuing a heartfelt honesty of storytelling, Cappello also involves the representatives of WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) and the International Athletics Federation (guilty of manipulating Schwazer’s urine tests to remove him from competitions), so as to stipulate a balanced, objective, and super partes investigation. Of course, although both sides find themselves talking to each other in front of a camera, the playing time destined for the opposing forces of Hurricane Schwazer is drastically reduced when compared with that of the athlete’s friends, colleagues and supporters. Nonetheless, there is a certain balance of strength in the work which leaves the viewers themselves with the possibility of forming a personal idea of what has been revealed to them; a judgment destined to confirm, or completely overturn, the image that the media had built on Schwazer after suspensions and returns, courtroom calls and appeals.
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The sports laboratory
There is something that fascinates and attracts the viewer’s gaze in the chromatic system chosen to immortalize every single witness called into question in this case Alex Schwazer. Seated in front of the camera, anyone who agrees to give their version of the story is surrounded by a cold, frozen, almost sterile photograph, like that of an operating room. Despite the depth of the stories, and the anguish that many anecdotes bring with them, the general feeling that strikes the viewer is therefore that of finding himself in front of laboratory guinea pigs, test tubes that have become human beings to be tested, manipulated, overturned from the inside, to change their values and destroy the desired results.
It is not an act of sanctification The Alex Schwazer case; the Netflix docu-series is a simple four-stage race where new revelations are added at each step, new evidence is refuted, while injustice advances, and Schwazer’s name, albeit only on a serial and non-competitive level, is restored.
We conclude this review of The Alex Schwarzer case by emphasizing how the director and creator Massimo Cappello was able to enclose in four episodes a story that seems to have come out of the mind of an author of mystery books. The fall and (attempted) rebirth of the blue athlete come back to life thanks to an objective and impartial narration, aimed at revealing mysteries and implications previously kept hidden.
Because we like it
- The handling of a story as intricate as that of Alex Schwarzer.
- The attempt to narrate each event giving everyone the opportunity to speak.
- The glacial photography that turns every space into a laboratory classroom.
- The limited playing time intended for WADA representatives.
- The lingering on the details of Schwarzer’s eyes and close-up, which leads the narrative towards a certain rhetoric of storytelling and pietism.