Nobadi (Karl Markovics, 2019): Austria

Reviewed by Saman David Mansourian. Viewed at the AFI Fest 2019.

Some movies are educational experiences, some movies are trips for your mind, some movies are solely emotional and hits every chord in your body, making you feel things you do not usually feel, and then there are rollercoaster-movies. I define rollercoaster-movies as films that fail to give you any real intellectual value except for eliciting a one dimensional experience usually characterized by fear, disappointment, disgust, or excitement. The lack of depth may or may not be intentional, but it fails to cultivate attachment to the screen because it either lacks balance between depth and shallowness, or because it is just a poorly executed film. Now, I do not know if there is a more cinematographic term for what I am attempting to describe, nevertheless, this film was, apart from a couple of scenes, a one dimensional experience characterized by disappointment, leaving me feeling like I wasted my time when the end credits finally came to show.

Nobadi takes us to a Heinz Trixner (Robert Senft) a very sad and angry old former SS-soldier (Hitler’s soldiers in WW2) who recently lost his dog, and who has finally made the decision to bury him in his backyard instead of keeping his corpse inside his home. The viewer gets to observe some of Heinz’s day-to-day interactions which are colored by bitterness, rage, indifference, and sadness. Heinz attempts to dig a hole in his backyard but is unable to proceed through some obstacles because of his old age, and encounters Adib “Nobadi” Ghubar (Borhanulddin Hassan Zadeh) in the city when shopping for tools. Adib is an immigrant from Afghanistan whose nickname was given to him by the soldiers in one of the NATO-camps where he was working. Seemingly homeless, he desperately asks Heinz for work who eventually hires him for helping out with the hole in his backyard. A relationship that begins as rough, develops across the movie as the characters learn more about each other. Eventually, Heinz feels compelled to help Adib, perhaps because of the guilt from knowing that he was part-responsible for the genocide of millions of jews during WW2. Although this is subjective, Heinz seems to have pent up emotions, perhaps because he know what he did was wrong, and has not had the possibility to resolve his issues with his conscience. When Adib shows up, he views him as a chance to do something right; to help the immigrant who left the camp in Afghanistan.  Unfortunately, Heinz is so extremely old, and somewhat senile, making all is actions in the attempt to help Adib out of touch with reality. This does not evoke sympathy for Heinz because the film is simply too bizarre. Instead it turns the film into a tragicomedy. It becomes, at times, so surreal that you cannot help but laugh to the silliness on the screen. The tragic part of the movie is that people like Adib are spread across all over Europe, trying to build a better life, and although there is a very serious moment in the film where we get to learn the heartbreaking story of Adib’s journey towards freedom, it is completely neglected because of the silliness portrayed by Heinz.

Karl Markovics took a very serious issue and turned it into something strange. I am not a political correct person and have no problem with making fun of real tragedies to elicit laughs – if you think you are different, go and watch Dave Chapelle’s latest Netflix special. This movie did not intend to do this, it’s sole purpose was to be bizarre. It could have been educational because it genuinely possessed the depth to create an emotional impact and help elevate the understanding of immigration in Europe. Ultimately, however, it was not. It could have been a comedy, but it was not. It could have been a tragedy, but it was not. It could have been many things because both characters were played by great acors, but it was not. The film was all over the place, and in the end it was nothing.

 

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