On August 1, American film audiences will be privy to a new biopic about the last two years of singer and musician Nico’s life. Many who are familiar with the explosive, tragic and prolific life of the gifted German-born songwriter and former Velvet Underground singer were undoubtedly expecting something different, forever associating her with bandmate Lou Reed and heroin addiction. Nico struggled with heroin addiction for over 15 years and it’s very easy, and unfortunately common, to characterize her life as a never-ending cycle of excess and turbulence alongside figures like Lou Reed and Andy Warhol; filmmaker Susanna Nicchiarelli had an altogether different representational idea when she decided to make the film.
Nico’s Life after Addiction and Heroin Recovery
The aptly named Nico, 1988 zeroes in on a little-explored phase of the singer’s life, far removed from her days as Warhol’s “Pop Girl of ‘66” and the voice of the Velvet Underground, in a time in which she is free to write and perform her own raw and unflinching material. The film, however, is not without its elements of tragedy, even separate from the ultimate conclusion of Nico’s fatal bike-riding accident in Ibiza at 49 years of age. It gives a raw and honest depiction of the role she played in her son’s heroin addiction by introducing him to the drug, and paints a picture of sad, albeit free and independent, last chapter of her musical career.
A Different and Honest Take on Nico’s Life
Nico has long been a polarizing and complicated pop culture figure and continues to endure as such 30 years after her death. Early reviews of this latest account of her life largely agree that it does a fair job of parsing the flaws, heroin addiction, accomplishments, regrets and hindsight that will forever comprise her legacy. It also reminds us that even those addicts who we think are the most far-gone and desperate can bounce back and reclaim their lives, and that there’s more to them than just their substance abuse. Perhaps the most valuable lesson to be gleaned from Nico’s brief, wild and complicated life is that, in the last two years of her existence, it was writing and playing her own music that ultimately sustained and satisfied her.