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.
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.