HORROR; 1hr 48min (Macedonian with subtitles)
STARRING: Sara Klimoska, Anamaria Marinca, Noomi Rapace
Witching hour: from left, Klimoska and (obscured) Marinca
In the deep country of 19th-century Macedonia, where evil is as tangible as the rocks and dirt, cursed baby girl Nevena is hidden in a cave by her petrified mother from a vengeful witch with the corrugated skin of a burns victim (Marinca as Old Maid Maria). Nevena (Klimoska) will languish there until she turns 16 to no avail, evil being the implacable menace it is: as a voiceless, clueless young woman, she is spirited away and demonised by Maria, who basically hates everyone after an awful fate that befell her aeons before.
Can Nevena escape her own awful destiny? The answer would initially appear to be no. After inadvertently killing a young village woman (Rapace as Bosilka), the newbie murderer takes on her prey’s identity by eviscerating Bosilka’s internal organs, then stuffing them inside her chest, which looks as nasty as it sounds but, credit where it’s due, does the transformative trick.
While hardly an unqualified success, Nevena’s stint as Bosilka whets her appetite for a humanity that the star-crossed sorceress yearns to possess despite every conceivable obstacle. The male and female bodies she goes on to inhabit are Nevena’s uphill path to belonging as she stumbles, “dressed in corpses,” towards a nascent sense of self.
It’s in his wordless articulation of this intensity that writer-director Goran Stolevski’s oblique feature-film debut truly shines. Searing through her witchy incarnations, trapped in an earthbound hell of folklore made flesh, Nevena’s inherent capacity to care will be her gateway to deliverance.