nevrland-2019-schmidinger-review

NEVRLAND

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by Gregor Schmidinger

grade: 5.5

The discovery of one’s homosexuality and, at the same time, the progressive knowledge of one’s body, are the main protagonists of Nevrland, in which Gregor Schmidinger has opted for a completely unconventional and, at times, highly experimental staging.

Little Men

Particularly dear to contemporary Austrian film directors is the coming-of-age genre. This trend culminated in 1999 with Barbara Albert’s Nordrand and has proved to be very successful in the years to come. One of the directors who has recently tried his hand at such a complicated genre, for example, is the young Gregor Schmidiger, born in 1985, with his Nevrland (presented within the official selection at the Diagonale 2019), in his first fiction feature after the documentaries Homophobia (2019) and The Boy next Door (2008).

Inspired by personal experiences, Nevrland focuses on self-awareness, discovery of homosexuality and, last but not least, growing up, through the story of 17-year-old Jakob (Simon Frühwirth). Abandoned by his mother at an early age, Jakob lives in a small flat with his father (Josef Hader) and his elderly and ailing grandfather. In order to help his family, the boy starts working in a slaughterhouse, but is soon struck by unexplained panic attacks. No one seems to understand the cause of his anxiety, except 26-year-old Kristjan, whom he meets in a gay chat room.

The discovery of one’s homosexuality and, at the same time, the progressive knowledge of one’s body, are therefore the main protagonists of Nevrland, in which Gregor Schmidinger has opted for a completely unconventional and, at times, highly experimental staging.

Although at the beginning the film seems to start in a completely classical way, soon the oniric (until a certain point relegated to a marginal role) gradually takes the upper hand and then almost completely supplants reality. Lights, shadows and scenes shot above all at night – with psychedelic lighting effects – become the trademark of the film, in which, at a certain point, not even we know what is real and what is part of Jakob’s imagination.

And this is certainly quite interesting. The main problem with Nevrland, however, is precisely this excessive liberty that the director wanted to take, with all the dreamlike staging and images that, in fact, seem almost disconnected from each other within the same work. From a certain point on, in fact, we suddenly stop being interested in Jakob’s story, the whole thing loses dangerously its edge and, despite visually appealing images and scenes, the director’s choices seem almost completely gratuitous, like a mere exercise in style. Even to the detriment of potentially interesting twists concerning the imagination of the protagonist.

What a pity. Especially because, given his undoubted mastery (despite his young age) of staging and portraying the human body and all its (seemingly) insignificant details, Gregor Schmidinger has proven to be quite talented. Such unpleasant mistakes, however, are very easy to make. Especially when one wants to involve the oniric, the experimental and – why not? – even, in its own way, the video-clip language, in telling a story that is as apparently simple as, in reality, much more complex than one can imagine.

Original title: Nevrland
Directed by: Gregor Schmidinger
Country/year: Austria / 2019
Running time: 90’
Genere: drama, coming-of-age
Cast: Simon Frühwirth, Paul Forman, Josef Hader, Wolfgang Hübsch, Markus Schleinzer, Anton Noori
Screenplay: Gregor Schmidinger
Cinematography: Jo Molitoris
Produced by: Orbrock Filmproduktion

Info: Nevrland’s page on FilmTV.It