Berlinale 2022 review: Into My Name (Nicolò Bassetti)

“Intimate and provocative in some places, but mostly endearing and stunningly beautiful (both in terms of form and content), Into My Name is an important piece of contemporary queer filmmaking, since it gives voice to those who are often viewed as invisible.”

What if trans people weren’t people who change gender, but rather people who choose their own name?

This thought-provoking question is the final sentence we hear in Into My Name (Nel Mio Nome), the beautiful and poetic documentary by Nicolò Bassetti which tells the story of four young transgender men living in contemporary Italy, documenting a portion of their lives as they continue to transition and depicting many of the challenges faced by the queer community. Gender is a concept that has been the subject of considerable discussion and debate over the decades, with the general sentiment questioning whether we can define gender as binary or if it is far more malleable than previous generations perceived it to be. Bassetti keeps these ideas in mind when crafting this film, which is a surprisingly layered depiction of the lives of these young men facilitated by a filmmaker who has an inherent interest as an outsider in telling their stories, allowing the subjects themselves to take control of the narrative. The intimate nature of the film evokes the feeling of being given access to the most private moments in the lives of the quartet as they negotiate their identity, both in terms of how they present themselves to the outside world as well as their own individual voyage of self-discovery, which is the foundation on which the entire film is built, with the director capturing several stunning moments in the lives of these boys as they continuously challenge the status quo.

It seems fitting that Into My Name would end with one of the subjects asking a question, since this is a film that frequently interrogates a range of ideas. From the first moment that we spend in the company of the quartet of young men that serve as the basis for the film we notice how there is always a form of enquiry underpinning every moment, each one being pivotal to the broader scope of the film, as they incite deep and meaningful discussion. Amongst these questions is one very simple quandary: at what point in our lives do we “know” who we are? As a global culture, we tend to be very hasty in ascribing identities and interests to people, and the film rebels against this idea by questioning whether we are born knowing who we are, or if the seeds flourish as we grow older and begin to look within ourselves. Of the many queries Bassetti and his subjects have this is possibly the most important, since it sets the stage for the forthcoming conversations, especially as Into My Name is focused heavily on showing how these men are still quite young and have yet to fully understand their own identities. The film may ask questions, but it never claims to have all the answers, instead using these ambiguous moments to stimulate a conversation around identity, another pivotal theme on which the film is constructed.

Identity plays a vital role in any discussion around queer issues, and Into My Name is certainly not a film that deviates from this tendency. Where it does differ slightly is in the perspective it offers, with each of the four people at the heart of the film being distinct in how they acknowledge their journey of growth. The film emphasizes the contrast between internal identity and its physical manifestations, asking the question whether one can truly come into their identity based solely on redefining their perspective (and as we soon learn, changing their name, which the film argues is possibly the most important step for trans individuals), or if taking on the external qualities is just as important. Like any of the questions asked throughout the film, it does not have a clear resolution and instead joins the wealth of other challenging concepts evoked as it portrays these young men undergoing the process of defining their identity, both for themselves and for the outside world, as they argue that there is a certain joy in being recognized for being the person they feel they were always meant to be. Into My Name demonstrates how we are all on our own individual journey, but it is also heartening to find kindred spirits, especially when experiencing a change as intimidating as transitioning into a new gender identity, a terrifying process without the right level of companionship to help remind one of the emotional catharsis waiting on the other side of what appears to be a never-ending series of social and bureaucratic obstacles.

Into My Name is a beautifully simple film – simultaneously joyful and melancholy, it functions as a moving depiction of young transgender men developing through engaging with some of the most personal and intimate moments in this period of the main subjects’ lives. We watch as passive observers as they age into their identity, gradually growing more comfortable in their new bodies, which they have watched slowly change through medical procedures and smaller alterations in appearance that reflect their internal gender identity, all of which are pivotal steps taken to ensure that they are able to exist as the people they have always aimed to be. There is a joy in being able to finally express yourself fully, and the film never neglects to show the happiness these changes bring to the boys at the heart of the story, who have dedicated their young lives to rebel against the notion that one has to define themselves along the lines of preconceived standards of gender and sexuality. Intimate and provocative in some places, but mostly endearing and stunningly beautiful (both in terms of form and content), Into My Name is an important piece of contemporary queer filmmaking, since it gives voice to those who are often viewed as invisible, allowing participants to have the space and time to tell their stories in their own words, without the burden of having to justify their existence. This film is a steadfast celebration of identity and the exuberant moment of being able to look in the mirror and finally be pleased about the person staring back at you.