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by Jan Soldat

grade: 7.5

Nullo was shot with very few means and in a single location. In the protagonist’s small bedroom, there is only him and the director. And even on this occasion, Jan Soldat’s poetics and style are clearly recognisable. At the Viennale 2021.

The courage to change

Norbert has never felt at ease with his body. Yet, at the same time, he never wanted to become a woman or begin the exhausting process of gender reassignment. What to do then? The young man actually chose the most drastic solution: to cut off his genitals (by himself) over a period of six years. This singular story was shown to us by young filmmaker Jan Soldat in his documentary Nullo, which premiered at the Viennale 2021.

In Nullo, then, Norbert tells his story, finally satisfied, in front of the director’s camera. He is completely naked and proudly shows off his new body. Nevertheless, his life has not always been so easy and remembering the past – perhaps only thanks to an old video on his mobile phone – can be extremely painful.

A shocking story, to say the least, this one told by Jan Soldat. And the director, for his part, who has always been interested in extremely non-conformist people and who sometimes even live on the fringes of society due to their singular habits, has chosen this time an extremely courageous protagonist, who has struggled hard to find his own balance, who is not afraid to show himself to the world as he is. Not even during his most intimate moments.

Nullo, then, was shot with very few means and in a single location. In the protagonist’s small bedroom, there is only him and the director. And on this occasion too, the filmmaker’s poetics and style are clearly recognisable: a few, simple fixed shots, an intimate atmosphere, a character we will never forget. In a few words: pure cinema. True, painful, often shocking, but also in its own way tender and ironic cinema. Jan Soldat has been finding his way for years now and each time he manages to surprise us, intrigue us and even move us.

With a directorial approach that, at times, is almost reminiscent of Ulrich Seidl’s cinema, Soldat has established himself on the international film scene thanks not only to his directorial maturity and the themes he deals with, but also – and above all – to the great fondness he feels for his characters each time. Only a year ago, at the Viennale 2020, we remember, for instance, how Heiko (protagonist of Resident Ground Floor) cried in despair in front of the camera as he remembered his grandparents. This time we see Norbert who, after many years – and much pain! – has finally obtained what he has always wanted. Jan Soldat never judges, but rather becomes their confidant. Indeed, we often hear his voice as he interacts with the characters. The camera is only an external entity sealing these new friendships. Friendships that remain forever imprinted on video and that, in their authentic simplicity, magically become cinema.

Original title: Nullo
Directed by: Jan Soldat
Country/year: Austria, Germany / 2021
Running time: 16’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Jan Soldat
Cinematography: Jan Soldat
Produced by: Jan Soldat

Info: the page of Nullo on the website of the Viennale; the page of Nullo on the website of the sixpackfilm; the page of Nullo on the website of Jan Soldat