Nina: Growing up in a vacuum
- KARLOVY VARY 2017: Slovak director Juraj Lehotský is back in competition in East of the West with a cold portrait of the emotional distance between a child and her divorced parents
The consequences of the divorce of her parents on the life of a 12-year-old child, told from her point of view, is the main theme of Nina [+see also:
interview: Juraj Lehotský
film profile]. Slovak director Juraj Lehotský presented his latest film in competition in the East of the West section of the 52nd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, four years after competing with his previous film, Miracle [+see also:
film profile], and nine years after his first feature film (documentary Blind Loves [+see also:
film profile], which was selected for Directors’ Fortnight in 2008).
Nina (young Bibiana Nováková) is a preteen whose life is turned completely upside down by her parents’ divorce. Silent and reflective, she splits her time between school, swimming competitions and, of course, her different homes, alternating the days she spends with her mother with those she spends with her father. After the divorce, her mother (Petra Fornayová) tries to re-build a life for herself with her Austrian boyfriend (Josef Kleindienst), to the dismay of her daughter, who asks her to stop speaking German so that she can understand her. Her father (Robert Roth), for his part, is a solitary man who works in a factory, where he takes his daughter from time to time, and doesn’t seem very interested in rebuilding a life for himself.
In any event, her parents’ attitude to life is rooted in grief and pain, in the inability of both to be civil to one another after failing to be happy together. And in between the two, in this vacuum of emotion, is Nina, who is plagued by an emotional indifference from which she cannot escape. The film is completely drenched in this feeling, to paralysing heights including for the viewer.
The young girl tries to make it through with the little things she loves, even if it’s just the constructions she puts together with wooden pallets from her father’s factory, her collection of caterpillars, and her quick imagination. After putting up with repeated arguments between her parents and other dramatic events, Nina decides to take control of the situation in the only way she can: by being responsible for herself (and disappearing of her own free will).
Aleš Březina’s music plays an important role in conveying the emotional charge of the film, even if it does so rather excessively at times. The screenplay, which was written by the director with Marek Lešcák, is structured around small but key moments that build a sturdy base for the film, but doesn’t block the general sense of apathy that would have benefitted from a story with more substance and originality.
(Translated from Spanish)
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