The 67th edition of Seminci de Valladolid left one of the most controversial titles of the last film season. Adaptation of ‘Nothing’, written in 2000 by Janne Teller, the novel was temporarily censored in her native Denmark due to the excessive violence and brutality carried out by the protagonists, all of whom are pre-adolescents. Hence its version for the big screen was difficult to carry out, especially at a time especially sensitive to the representation of childhood and adolescence in film and television.
The students of the school in the small town of Tæring have just started eighth grade. Boys of 12 or 13 years old who live in a peaceful environment, with parents of a progressive and environmental character, within the canons of Scandinavian society. However, one of them Pierre Anthon, the son of a computer engineer, decides to leave the class because he finds no meaning in life and considers that nothing is worth doing. For this reason, the boy chooses to climb a tree, from which he will not come out, since he does not find any meaning in the mere fact of breathing.
His classmates try to make him come down from the tree, to value life. Thus, the children choose to give him, as an offering, those objects that are the most valuable in their lives. What begins by giving ballet shoes or boxing gloves ends up turning into something more perverse and bloodier, when the group comes to the conclusion that it is time to give something of irreplaceable value as an offering.
Starting from that base, ‘Nothing’, which is a novel that has been banned in other countries, becomes a contemporary version of ‘Lord of the Flies’. With a strong charge of nihilism, the film is capable of being the most graphic representation of human evil through the eyes of minors, with the addition of the deep existentialist reflection already present in the original work. Leave the uncomfortable question of how much things matter and how that question, as well as the question of the meaning of life, can have a sinister answer.
Daring film that will fascinate and disgust in equal parts
In that ideal world that has public opinion in its head about what Nordic society is; Trine Piil Christensen, who returns to directing features 22 years after her debut, along with Seamus McNally (who directed the child actors), create a film that begins as if it were the typical feel-good film to become a dangerous dystopia that is terrifying for how real it can be. That feeling that the game is getting out of hand is permeating the public, who ends up horrified by what they witness.
The level of cruelty, violence, aggressiveness and sadism that is shown is more scary since the children are the protagonists. Hence, it can well be seen as one of the most transparent forms of the portrait of human brutality. Christensen is brave, since it is a complicated exercise to execute, given the possible moral doubts that may exist around a piece in which boys of 12 or 13 years old must decapitate a dog or rape one of their classmates.
Despite having a strong extreme character, ‘Nothing’ has certain moments that, sadly, could very well be part of the real news about childhood evil (especially in recent cases of minors sexually abusing their classmates). Hence his nihilistic cynicism is also seen as a deeply coherent wake-up call, in a time when the absence of importance and the excess of meaning go very dangerously together. An extremely uncomfortable work that manages to fulfill the objective of being a brutal punch in the stomach of whoever sees it.
The best: His spirit of not wanting to please the general public and who knows how to keep the spirit of Teller’s novel on the big screen.
Worst: Such is the level of brutality that the film exposes, that it has moments of excessive restlessness.