IDENTITY: An ethnographic study of a strange world, presented in highly personal, experimental film language.
Melita Zajc
Melita Zajc is a media anthropologist and philosopher. Regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: March 10, 2020

The protagonist

In Nails in My Brain, «a young man goes to the places in which he has strong memories. Each memory helps him to open a new horizon but no matter how far he goes, he always returns to the same places, same memories, same faces, same questions, same nails on his brain, » says the film’s publicity. Actually, there is not much physical movement in this film. We see a chicken walking on the ground, barely covered with snow. A group of sheep is bleating in front of a wooden door. The protagonist – a man dressed in a black jacket with a hood – never leaves the old farmhouse, where he lies on the narrow wooden bed under the window partly covered by a transparent light blue scarf, or kneels below the door arch, back towards the audience, a pair of boots on his side.

The camera remains immobile too. For the first fifty minutes, the viewer never sees the location in full but only receives bits of information – close-ups of electrical outlets, spider webs covered with dirt, or a wooden stool with, or without, boots on top.

The thought, however, is in constant motion, expressed via voice-over, addressing topics such as, «Weakest hand can turn into the strongest creature with a small camera,» comparing it to Dostojevski’s «hidden power»: «I can walk like the strongest, happiest man in the world. Because I know it, I feel the «hidden power» in me…with that camera in my hand». Tolstoi is brought up too: « People live and act partly according to their own ideas, and partly because they are influenced by the ideas of others. The extent to which they do the one or the other is one of the chief things that differentiate men». There is no doubt that we are to believe the protagonist is one of those people not easily influenced by the ideas of others and, as the camera remains focused on the walls or ground, we are overflown by his ideas.

Nails in My Brain-documentary

The torments

The voice-over, the same male voice throughout the film, is accompanied by three types of sounds – church bells, a piano playing the Erik Satie’s Gnossienne No. 1, and the sound of the ambient, …

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