Robert Senf (Heinz Trixner) is a miserable and lonely 91-year-old former paramedic who lives in the suburbs of Vienna. His dog has just sadly died and he undertakes the task of digging a hole in his back garden to bury his deceased pet. Robert cannot handle the task himself and employs a young man called Abid (Borhanulddin Hassan Zadeh) to help him. Abid is from Afghanistan and has recently arrived in Austria, desperate for work and money. The cultural and personal differences between the pair are obvious and this creates tension throughout the film.
From the start of Nobadi, Robert is presented as miserable, ignorant and horrible. He haggles with Abid in order to only pay him the measly sum of four euros an hour. He also takes Abid’s phone away from him and he does not let the worker take breaks, even though he is clearly struggling with an injured foot. The old man is constantly on edge and never cracks a smile. However, as the film progresses, he becomes more compassionate and this leads to a turn of events when the old man takes the injured Abid to a vet. The worker clearly needs a doctor, but as he is undocumented, he cannot visit a hospital, so the old man looks to obtain supplies from the person who cared for his dog. Here we are given a glimpse of a confused but compassionate nature, but we are unclear if this is all just an act in order to lure the young man into his evil ways. It is the times that the pair talk to one another that give Nobadi its touching moments. We find out that Abid was given the nickname ‘Nobadi’ at a military camp. Here the pair finally open up, but the viewer is made to wait for this moment of connection.
The fact that the old man is so cruel and horrible makes Nobadi a difficult film to watch. It is impossible to get behind Robert and empathise with him. He commits evil acts and even though he helps Abid, he does so in a way that puts his life at risk and causes harm to others. Robert feels threatening and this threat is explicitly shown at the conclusion of the film. There is an evil sting in the tail which leaves a horrific and bitter taste. This is an unsatisfying conclusion, yet it shows that Nobadi is a bold and memorable film, despite its vile protagonist.