Nightsiren : Movie Review

Posted by Eddie Pasa on September 21, 2023 in / No Comments

 

Not Rated by the MPA (contains strong language and violence, graphic nudity, sexual situations, and an attempted rape – equivalent to hard R). Language: Slovak (with English subtitles). Running time: 110 minutes. Released by Breaking Glass Pictures.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Breaking Glass Pictures, Svetlonoc, NightsirenWhere does the horror lie in Tereza Nvotová’s Nightsiren? Is it in the supposed curse that has followed Šarlota (Natalia Germani) from her childhood to the present day? Or is it embodied in the inhabitants of her secluded town to which she’s returned after a twenty-year absence? Is it the witch rumored to live in the woods? Or does it reside in unevolved belief systems that hold more sway in this village than fact and science?

Nvotová’s film doesn’t shy away from the discomfort of small-town groupthink, where blind eyes are turned to patriarchal abuse and other notions rooted in the closed minds Šarlota encounters upon her return home. Having left after escaping her abusive mother and literally leaving her younger sister Tamara (Ela Stanová) in the lurch, Šarlota has come back at the behest of an anonymously sent inheritance letter leaving her the family property. Which isn’t much, considering her house burned while she was away, and her sister is nowhere to be found.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Breaking Glass Pictures, Svetlonoc, NightsirenRelying only on the few women she knows from childhood, she endeavors to make her home livable again, only to be met with resistance from all sides. Whether it’s the conflicted Helena (Juliana Olhová), loutish Tomás (Marek Geisberg), or countless others who believe so fervently in the whispers of witchcraft surrounding Šarlota’s disappearance, she experiences no comfort or joy. Only with the mysterious Mira (Eva Mores) can she let down her guard and talk about the intervening years since the two last saw each other. To the rest, she’s a nuisance, an unwelcome disruption that might be the reason for a sudden run of bad luck befalling the town.

Natalia Germani puts an astounding range of emotion and skill on display, commanding both the screen and our attention as she dashes Šarlota through the wringer. It’s a performance that binds us to her with unyielding force. She doesn’t just ask us to come along with her; she grasps us firmly and leads us through these tumultuous days, allowing us to fully ingest what she’s come home to and the informal power structures she needs to fight against.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Breaking Glass Pictures, Svetlonoc, NightsirenShot with care by Federico Cesca amid the secluded Slovakian mountains, Nightsiren is at once filled with the possibilities of wide open spaces and suffocated by the encroaching villagers who shadow Šarlota’s every movement, as if waiting for the right moment to pounce and subjugate her. Having experienced life outside these trappings, she’s enrobed in a freedom alien to these men and women who already view her as an interloper. Her worldly ways are looked upon as evil, even when trying to use her nursing skills to save someone from a grievous injury. Every action she takes is wrong in their eyes, and it’s almost as if they can’t wait to expel her or do something more permanent.

Told over a series of chapters that gradually reveal Šarlota’s history and mannerisms, there’s an uncomfortable energy pushing us toward truths and revelations both enlightening and horrifying. In her second feature film, director/co-writer Tereza Nvotová highlights the everyday horrors of small-town life, made more brutal in knowing that the archaic beliefs these villagers espouse cannot be easily dispelled by fact and knowledge. It’s as if Šarlota was the only one to eat the forbidden fruit, and we know how the centuries have treated the only other woman said to have eaten it. Nightsiren is an astounding and surreal waking nightmare – one which our hero must endure to find her own peace, even if it comes at the ultimate price.

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Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on 4k or Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

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