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Review | Nightsiren – Witchcraft and Feminine are Slovak themes of TERROR style ‘The Witch’



Film seen at the Rio 2022 Film Festival.

Having a film selected at a major international film festival is the kind of seal that allows a production to stand out in a universe of thousands of titles from other countries every year. When a film is selected in two important festivals, it therefore means that this production really has something different that deserves the attention of the public, wherever they are. This is how the Slovak feature film ‘Nightsiren’ arrived at the Rio Film Festival this year, after having been screened by the Locarno Film Festival as well.

As a child, Šarlota and her younger sister Tamara lived in a cabin in the woods with their mother and father, who abused their mother. One day, upset by an event and determined to run away from home, Šarlota leaves, with Tamara hot on her heels, but something happens that causes Tamara to lose her balance and knock her off a cliff. Confused, sorry and above all determined, Šarlota moves on, returning to the village years later, as an adult, in an instinct to find out what had happened to her sister. Back in her place of origin, Šarlota (Natalia Germani) will have to face the rooted customs of the population and find friendships left in the past.

At almost two hours in length, the length of this film perhaps plays against the meaning of ‘Nightsiren’. The first sequence of the feature film brings back this scene from the past of the protagonist, then we find her already in the village of origin; from then on, the screenplay by Barbora Namerova and Tereza Nvotová begins to reconstruct Šarlota’s life like a puzzle that she herself does not know, making the spectator’s life a little difficult, for more than half of the feature film making us ask why kind horror. But then, when it all really begins to happen, we understand that the motto of ‘Nightsiren’ uses the reality of women and the feminine itself as an argument for building the climate of increasing suspense that begins to squeeze this protagonist’s life. as she attempts to transit through the sexist, misogynistic, ultra-religious, and prejudiced village that at no time tolerates female freedom and individuality.

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For this, the director Tereza Nvotová starts from the daily drama of a young woman in search of the roots of her past to transform the conflict of ideologies into the main catalyst of the tragedies of her feature film. From a more open and bright setting in the first half to a dark and mystical second part – which takes us back to stories like those seen in ‘A Bruxa’, ‘Midsommar’ and others – Tereza Nvotová demonstrates, with the simplicity of her film, that the worst terror in a woman’s life is being a woman in a conservative society.

With beautiful scenes of witchcraft, mysticism and a steamy thriller vibe, ‘Nightsiren’ confirms the expectation created by its passage through film festivals, bringing audiences an aesthetically impactful and visceral story. This is horror and suspense cinema from the European mountains proving, once again, that it has a lot to offer to the imagination of fans of the genre.

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