Ahmet Simsek is a busy guy—he serves as a paramedic in the Austrian army, he’s an accomplished boxer, and he loves spending time with his family, where he’s a great uncle to his nieces and nephews. For all that, he’s also happy spending quiet time alone, in the company of his pet turtle (a particularly appropriate pet for an introverted guy). Even his father’s criticisms—centered on Ahmet being 30 and unmarried, with no immediate prospects of producing any grandchildren—can’t break his good mood, and Ahmet assures Dad he’ll find the right girl some day. Truth is, Ahmet seems a bit ambivalent about the whole suggestion that it’s time for him to get married, although he’s so handsome and charming you’d think he would be inundated with prospects.
Meanwhile, there’s a new challenge in his life: Ahmet has recently committed to training with an acting company and is preparing to play the leading role of Stanley Kowalski in a performance of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. That’s a big role for an introverted guy, especially since Ahmet has one big problem—he can’t cry on cue, and yet the play’s conclusion requires him to produce tears. Could there be a connection between this incapacity and his unmarried state? Perhaps, since he does seem to be using the theater training as a sort of therapy, on the proposition that if he understands Stanley, he’ll come to better understand himself as well.
Soldat Ahmet (“Ahmet the Soldier”) is the first feature film by director Jannis Lentz, whose previous films include the shorts Schattenboxer (2015), and Wannabe (2017), the former also featuring Ahmet as a kickboxer who commits a violent crime. Soldat Ahmet is a character study of Ahmet, but it’s also an art film that mixes realistic, observational scenes—Ahmet training in the gym, competing in the ring, working at the base, rehearsing in the studio, and visiting his family—with more abstract sequences that comment on how boxing, theatre, and the military are all stylized forms of performance. Benedikt Palier’s unusual soundtrack, which relies mostly on spare, percussive sounds, is mainly present in these abstract scenes, where it serves to emphasize how they differ from the everyday life portrayed in the more naturalistic scenes.
Soldat Ahmet is an unusual film, but one well worth seeing. A documentary centered on a single individual lives or dies by the interest that individual can hold for the viewer, and Ahmet certainly has the charisma to hold anyone’s attention. Besides, the issues he is dealing with are common enough, across many cultures, and Lentz’s careful construction of this film is a master class in how meaning can be found in the most ordinary of actions. | Sarah Boslaugh
Soldat Ahmet is available for home viewing in the United States as part of the 25th Annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, which runs from 12 pm ET on April 7, 2022, through 11:59 pm ET on April 10, 2022. Further information is available through the festival web site.