2019, Movies

Zana (2019, Antoneta Kastrati)

This is, I believe, the first Kosovar film I’ve ever seen. However, it’s far from the first “woman loses a child and goes batshit crazy” film I’ve seen. In fact, I’ve seen so many of those movies, that the torp feels like a sexist cliche to me. This film was directed and cowritten by a woman but it’s very hard for for me not to feel the weight of all the “woman loses a child and goes batshit crazy” films I’ve seen before.

To me, it’s a lazy, sexist trope, whether or not the movie is well made. It’s never, or very rarely, the man who loses his mind. (Don’t Look Now being the most famous “man loses a child and goes batshit crazy” film.) I feel like a distinct spin on the trope is necessary to really overcome the baggage. And I’m not sure this movie does enough different to redeem the trope, no matter the intentions.


This film is about the trauma of a civil war and it feels like a genuine attempt to explore that trauma. It is well made in the sense that the shots are quite well done and the soundtrack is mostly pretty great.

But the film doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. It seems like it is fully going the horror direction early on and then it doesn’t go there very much. It’s more “psychological horror” which is not something I’m a big fan of. This is not the lead’s fault, though it often is in these movies, and I think she is as good as can be expected in a role with not a lot of dialogue.

Basically, this woman is haunted by her dead child and she doesn’t want to have another child either because she views it as a betrayal of her child or because she fears that child will also die. Either way, her family and her society do not want to let her be. And so the horror, such as it is, is a combination of her nightmares and the oppression of her family and community. It certainly sucks for her but it’s not that compelling for the view. (You do wish that it would turn into a horror movie and some of the awful people in it would get some comeuppance.) The film is much more of a unending tragedy than it is a “thriller” (as the score tries to convince you) or a horror movie (as the ghost tries to convince you).

And, despite their intentions, the film just feels just way too similar to all these movies that have explored this theme before. Maye this one is distinct because of its setting and because it was made by a woman. But, for me, it hasn’t escaped the shadow of the “woman loses a child and goes batshit crazy.” Because that’s what happens in this movie. And it happens 10 years after the death. (I get the point the filmmakers are trying to make about the war but I just don’t think this is the best way to make it.)


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