Directed by Lucrecia Martel
1st – 7th June 2018
Reviewed by Colin Serjent
Adapted from Antonio di Benedetto’s 1956 novel, Zama takes its name from the increasingly loopy protagonist, Don Diego de Zama, a magistrate working on behalf of the Spanish monarchy in an unnamed Latin American colonial backwater, who is waiting anxiously to be posted elsewhere away from the cholera-ridden region.
The film opens in 1790, but oddly director Lucrecia Martel makes no reference to the overt influence of the Catholic Church in its colonialist land grabbing pursuits at that time.
In the opening shot – an image heavily featured in the promotion of the movie – Zama (Daniel Gimenz Cacho) is seen gazing reflectively out to sea, probably wishing he was elsewhere.
Decay and degradation is prevalent in many forms in the film, signified by the putrefying landscapes, dirty and sweat soaked clothes and rotting corpses.
Sound, natural and man-made, play an important part throughout. For example, the constant hum of cicadas – reminding me of my trips to Greek islands! – melding with rippling water and the sound of children playing..
Strangely and anachronistically, Martel includes, a couple of times, a piece of music recorded in 1958 by Brazilian guitar duo Los Indios Tabajaras.
The closing moments of ‘Zama’ features two of the most eye-catching views, firstly of a beautiful horse looking directly at the camera, and then of a very unusual and charming set of trees.