BFI London Film Festival: Nico, 1988

Nico, 1988
Nico, 1988
Directed by Susanna Nicchiarelli
Starring Trine Dyrholm, John Gordon Sinclair and Anamaria Marinca
Screening at LFF October 14th, 15th, 2017

by Joanna Orland

While her collaboration with The Velvet Underground was short-lived, it shrouded the rest of Nico’s musical career with the curse of the iconic. Longing to be known by her birth name Christa Päffgen, the singer spent the bulk of her career trying to escape the shadow of the band that made her famous. A frustrated artist in every sense, Nico was a very flawed individual: Abrasive, blunt, destructive, egomaniacal and a heroin addict. Nico, 1988 explores these sides to her personality in a biopic about the last few years of her life.

Trine Dyrholm carries the film with her brilliant performance as Nico. Physically and vocally transforming into the singer, Dyrholm emanates the caustic side of Nico as she goes through her worst moments as an addict, and draws on audience empathy in the latter part of the film as the singer has slightly more of a grip on life. Her performance is layered and dynamic, defining Nico, 1988 as a character study by her own accord.

As far as the plot is concerned, there is very little of it. The script attempts to capture a slice of Nico’s life, giving her an arc as she approaches the end. Alas, the story is flimsy and weak, relying solely on Dyrholm’s capabilities to see it through. She does to a degree, but it’s a difficult film to engage with, especially with such a galling character in the lead.

A performance piece more than a biopic, Trine Dyrholm just about redeems Nico, 1988. The film is likely best left to fans of the singer and Dyrholm herself. Although, Dyrholm is likely to garner new ones out of the excellent work she puts forth here.


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