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The documentary shows daily situations and rituals of ultimate (hetero-)normativity without added commentary.


As the photographer prepares his shoot, the man and woman stand on an Italian beach holding hands. The photographer directs the couple to run along the beach, telling the man to lead.

“The man always has to take the initiative. It’s an old story,” the photographer tells the couple.

“Alpha male,” comments the man. “Perfecto, alpha male,” the photographer replies.

This is normal. Or is it?

In NORMAL, a documentary about gender and sexual roles, director Adele Tulli sets her camera on manifestations of the old story in which men dominate and women exist for beauty and domestic servitude. Examining gender norms in Italian society, the short but powerful documentary unfolds in a series of episodes loosely structured around the stages of life. There are no characters to follow, only provocative scenes that are observational and distant, with moments of intimacy breaking through.

Pregnant women exercise underwater, a wide-eyed girl gets her ears pierced, boys race on mini-motorbikes, and a plastics factory churns out items that are revealed to be gendered toys. The film offers several such surprising moments, letting the viewer discover and decode what is happening in front of the camera.

When subjects do speak, they are often portrayed instructing others in stereotypical sexual roles. A pickup artist teaches a young man how to converse with women — invoking the “alpha male” refrain. A religious leader lectures Christian couples on communication and faith. And a woman prepares brides-to-be with matrimonial advice, such as “don’t neglect your looks” after giving birth.

To the feminist or queer viewer, the accumulating messages of heteronormativity can feel oppressive over time. Perhaps that’s the point. Through associative editing, soundtrack choices, and repeated images of collective gender performativity, the film invites viewers of all backgrounds to critically engage with what they’re seeing.

The film’s final scene, set on stage in an opera house, offers what is perhaps the best example of the filmmaker’s central thesis. Are we watching an alternative to the factory of gender and love narratives? Or is the last scene a representation of a new performative “normal”?

NORMAL is a documentary of simple scenes that raise complex questions. It presents an age-old story, and challenges its audience to revise it.

Dolissa Medina


Original title: Normal
Italien 2019, 70 min
Genre: Documentary
Director: Adele Tulli
Author: Adele Tulli
DOP: Clarissa Cappellani, Francesca Zonars
Montage: Ilaria Fraioli, Elisa Cantelli, Adele Tulli
Distributor: missingFILMs
FSK: 12
Release: 03.10.2019




  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles
English/with English subtitles
All languages

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