The scene in Susanna Nicchiarelli’s Nico 1988 where the singer and her entourage leave Prague and cross paths with a group of people celebrating All Souls’ Day (Dušičky) is one of the key moments of the movie. Nico has otherwise always been very much in touch with her own mortality, toying with it even, just like Jim Morrison had done so himself — perhaps another lesson she had learned from her electrifying encounters with the King Lizard before he precociously burned and turned to dust. Yet there’s s sort of déjà vu in her eyes, beautifully albeit unexpectedly soundtracked by Alphaville’s ‘Big In Japan’; she seems to have come to terms with it in a serene way, no longer playing the cat-and-mouse game she had been undertaking for years, with heroin and even before, a post-war melancholy and urgency never leaving her gestures — like the voracity with which she eats, explaining she had starved as a child during the war, and after that as she pursued a model career: “it was horrible; I love eating.”

Her efforts in effacing her legendary beauty due to it always having felt like a burden to her — “I was never happy when I was beautiful,” she declares — echo those of Marianne Faithfull, who followed a similar descendant path herself only to reinvent the way she was perceived as an artist. In that sense, Nico is paradoxically an anti-visual icon; her image belonging to a frivolity she prefers not to reminisce during interviews, mid-80s Nico is portrayed in an incessant and intense duality between fragility and strength, both relatable and immeasurably distant, always navigating towards some kind of limit she seems all too curious about: “what does it mean, “we will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind?,” she asks, reading Wordsworth. “Who left it behind?”

Nicchiarelli’s film follows that same fragile yet powerful language that emanates from Nico’s music and overall existence. Sometimes raw, sometimes poetic, sometimes raw and poetic simultaneously, it portrays the singer’s last two years the way she’d probably wanted them to be portrayed — using disenchantment instead of glamour, as if her death were but an insignificant déplacement, a mere change of scenery. She always seemed to exist in a parallel universe anyways, recurrently showing and singing and playing things that didn’t quite pertain to our own perception of reality. Listening to Nico has always been a bit like swimming — more like sinking — in an immense pool of turbid and dense water, and Nico 1988 functions as a recreation of that same feeling through images and sometimes intricate tableaux, constantly reminding us of the certainty and relief of death.