There are so many reasons why the short film ‘Soldiers‘ won our hearts that it is difficult to summarize all its qualities in a few lines. From the very beginning, Zhaoshuai Wu proves to be a professional director with a mature vision, who manages to dose with enviable precision a tension that is as implosive as it is suggestive. His short film possesses a minimalist concentration that hides a bittersweet poetry while evoking a meditation on the passage of time, focusing on the theme of old age. Thus, we witness a sensitive X-ray of a soul that, struggling with the loss of the meaning of existence, tries to maintain the strength and emotional integrity necessary to face and choose his own death. We are not talking about an atypical or isolated case involving a specific (psycho)pathology but rather a much wider panorama of the fragility of the human being, a meditation that transcends any social or cultural barriers.


The protagonist suddenly realizes that, after the death of his friend and former comrade, the rest of his life is condemned to painful loneliness. Even the long-awaited visit of his son fails to prevent his deplorable emotional state. The overwhelming feeling of abandonment sets in, and the only way the old man can maintain his dignity is by deciding his own destiny.


With tenderness and extreme care for imperceptible but essential details, the director presents an endearing portrait that, through the universality of his trauma, captures a memorable figure. Agonizing silences, clumsy gestures, or daily rituals destroyed by the imminence of an insidious, diffuse death merge into an allegorical, diaphanous, and well-articulated cinematic material, despite its deceptive simplicity. In fact, this is perhaps the great merit of Zhaoshuai Wu, who, while apparently exploring the “unbearable lightness of being”, embeds in the substrates of his short film the indigestible sensation of loneliness as the ultimate burden of the human condition. Certainly, ‘Soldiers’ is not a project that will captivate everyone, but we are convinced that those who give it the necessary patience will understand how rewarding such a cinematic experience can be.


For the sensitivity, coherence, and allegorical force with which it encapsulates a universal human and humane portrait, ‘Soldiers’ was awarded the Film of the Month distinction in the April 2023 edition of TMFF.