Zana review – witchy wisdom and Lynchian shadows in Kosovan drama

A woman whose child was killed in crossfire desperately tries to get pregnant in this bleak, beautifully acted film

Lume (Adriana Matoshi) and her husband Ilir (Astrit Kabashi) managed to survive the late 90s war in Kosovo, but suffered the unthinkable loss of their young daughter, Zana, who was killed in crossfire. The years have passed on the farm where they live with Ilir’s formidable mother Remzije (Fatmire Sahiti), and the waters of everyday routine have flowed back into the scars. But Lume cannot let go of the past. Although seemingly the good, submissive little wifey that this close-knit, extremely old-fashioned society expects her to be, she’s racked with sorrow, and suffers from constant nightmares, featuring images that range from disturbing and bloody to downright David Lynchian, full of shadows and veiled figures backlit by moonlight.

Remzije is pressuring Ilir to consider taking a second wife so that he can sire more children now that Lume can’t seem to get pregnant. In desperation, Lume agrees to see faith healers: the first, a witchy but wise woman in their own village; the second, a more sinister character who charges €500 per consultation and is prone to diagnosing demonic possession.

Watch the trailer for Zana

Kosovan writer-director Antoneta Kastrati draws deep from the wells of both her homeland’s tragedy and her own in this disturbing, unnerving story. The flecks of horror in the way she handles some of the nightmare imagery may trigger some viewers to expect a different outcome from the deep drink of bleak we finally get served. Zana is a tough watch, but Matoshi’s fine-grained performance is a blessing to watch and there are incidental pleasures, particularly in the way the film languishes in the sultry, cruelly fecund landscape.

On an anthropological level, there is something especially fascinating about this insider’s view of Kosovo society, where archaic beliefs about family mores rub up against people watching YouTube to learn new recipes for family meals.

• Zana is on digital platforms from 2 April.

Contributor

Leslie Felperin

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea review – Lynchian psychodrama in the sun
Criminal undercurrents in a sleepy Greek backwater provide the pretext for a disquieting spectacle of strangeness

Peter Bradshaw

09, Feb, 2019 @9:00 PM

Article image
Persian Lessons review – hard-to-believe Holocaust survival drama
Claiming to be inspired by true events, the story of a young Jewish man who stays alive by pretending to be half-Iranian strains credibility

Cath Clarke

19, Jan, 2021 @2:00 PM

Article image
Phoenix review – horror comes home in chilly Scandi drama
Daily dread infuses the raw, claustrophobic story of a teenage carer looking after her troubled mother and little brother

Cath Clarke

11, Sep, 2019 @12:00 PM

Article image
Bad Tales review – suburban dysfunction in visceral Italian drama
Superbly shot, the D’Innocenzo brothers’ film focuses on families, neighbourly envy and the feral behaviour of men which culminates in tragedy

Peter Bradshaw

16, Feb, 2021 @11:00 AM

Article image
My Little Sister review – fierce and fraught family drama
Nina Hoss and Lars Eidinger give finely acted performances as they play twins brought back together through illness – but who is saving who?

Peter Bradshaw

07, Oct, 2021 @8:00 AM

Article image
The Auschwitz Escape review – death camp’s secrets uncovered in powerful drama
Two prisoners at the extermination camp make a perilous bid for freedom in an intense, disturbing Holocaust story based on real events

Leslie Felperin

19, May, 2021 @2:00 PM

Article image
Digger review – family tensions are unearthed in slow-burn Greek drama
A corporate destruction project offers a symbolic backdrop for this poignant drama about a father-son relationship

Phil Hoad

15, Feb, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
Stillwater review – fictionalised Amanda Knox drama is so bad it’s bad
Matt Damon is woefully miscast as a rash, violent loser in Tom McCarthy’s calamitous reworking of the notorious murder case

Peter Bradshaw

09, Jul, 2021 @9:39 AM

Article image
In Safe Hands review – lives collide in intelligent adoption drama
In a welcome but heavy-handed tale, a fortysomething woman embarks on a momentous quest to bring a child into her home

Phil Hoad

29, May, 2019 @12:00 PM

Article image
Herself review – Irish abuse drama turns into home-build heartwarmer
Clare Dunne stars in and writes this self-empowering story of a battered Dublin cleaner who builds her own house, directed by The Iron Lady’s Phyllida Lloyd

Peter Bradshaw

09, Sep, 2021 @10:00 AM