Review: The Nipple Whisperer (2021)

Wendy Dresner and Denis Lavant in ‘The Nipple Whisperer’  © Prime Time / Bekke Films / Radiator IP Sales

Maurice Sanders is not an ordinary man, he is somebody with a superpower. He is not called Magic Sandy for nothing as he has a special type of talent useful during particular type of shootings. He is the nipple whisperer, the titular hero of Jan Van Dyck’s short film.

The Nipple Whisperer premiered last year at the shorts competition of SXSW and it also competed at Kyiv International Short Film Festival and in Tampere. It is currently the Short of the Week on the eponymous YouTube Channel.

First when me meet Sandy (Denis Lavant), there is seemingly nothing special about him. Quite the contrary, he seems like a troubled, lost man wandering aimlessly the streets of Brussels. But David (Wim Willaert) and Doris (Wendy Dresner) know his secret powers. While the spooky musical theme along the lines of horror-movie version of a nursery rhyme plays in the background, the duo wonders what will happen if Sandy refuses to say yes to their plan.

When David persuades him somehow, using Doris as a trump card, Sandy appears on the set where the soap commercial is being shot and its star, the “soap princess” Angela (Elke Shari Van Den Broek) struggles to be motivated properly. After Sandy performs his act, to a slightly different, gentler musical background, the secret connecting him, Doris and their previous or current lines of work is revealed.

The whole situation might seem bizarre and nonsensical, but it is certainly a symbol leading us to a deeper, even universal meaning considering body and mind, the fading health and ability to perform something outstanding. It helps a lot that the vision of the writer-director Jan Van Dyck is consistent all the way through and the execution is great on every level, without employing the trick of causing a shock by the means of explicitness.

The cast lead by Denis Lavant who radiates the mysterious weirdness and inner pain like in so many roles throughout his career is brilliant, so is Van Dyck’s control of his actors. His sense of directing is palpable in the way he dictates the general feeling of the film, without revealing points of the mystery until due time. He achieves this by changing the shooting style from composed static shots in the beginning, to gentle and controlled camera movements later on, and by shifting the mood through the musical score composed and performed by Juul Verschraegen. The camerawork in the greyish colour scheme by Fiona Braillon also deserves the praise, and the same goes to Jan Hameeuw’s finely measured editing. The Nipple Whisperer sticks out, and it is a kind of film one doesn’t forget easily.

Year: 2021
Runtime: 15’ 21’’
Country: Belgium
Languages: English, French, Dutch
Directed by: Jan Van Dyck
Written by: Jan Van Dyck
Cast: Denis Lavant, Wendy Dresner, Wim Willaert, Elke Shari Van Den Broek, Sameh Alaa, Youri Dirkx, Iris Van Cauwenbergh, Korée Wilrycx, Ben Vandendaele
Cinematography by: Fiona Braillon
Editing by: Jan Hameeuw
Music by: Juul Verschraegen
Sound design by: Yves De Mey
Production design by: Jens Burez
Costume design by: Catherine Van Bree
Make-up by: Charlotte Blommaert
Colourist: Nick Fortemps
Assistant director: Mathy Brouns
Produced by: Ben Vandendaele
Executive producer: Antonio Lombardo
Production companies: Prime Time, Bekke Films
Co-production company: The
Supported by: Belgian Cinema from Flanders, VAF
Sales by: Radiator IP Sales