DRAMA; 1hr 55min (Spanish with subtitles)
STARRING: Daniel Giménez Cacho, Matheus Nachtergaele
Zama with llama: Cacho gets close
Languishing in a godforsaken, 18th-century South American colony, pining for his family and desperate beyond measure to be gone, magistrate Don Diego de Zama (Cacho, impenetrably morose) is in fact going precisely nowhere. Despite the not especially comforting assurances from his superiors that the king will eventually consider his transfer requests, the languid days tick by in a swirl of extravagant characters and stultifying class rituals from which no forward movement is forthcoming. Zama is fated to know no peace, his tropical torment a demented reverie teeming with gonzo details.
Director Lucretia Martel (The Headless Woman) has made a moveable feast of Antonio di Benedetto’s 1956 novel, her drifty vignettes carving an oblique path through the miserable torpor of Zama’s internment. As his humiliating stagnation degenerates into a plainly fated hunt for a violent desperado (Nachtergaele), so too does the Kafkaesque absurdity of the plight of a man undone by hope. Zama’s story is knotty and opaque, yet those very qualities make it completely its own creation. Brutal and implacable, obstinately memorable and uncompromising, it slip-slides to a macabre conclusion with the perverse logic of a living nightmare.