Based on Argentine wriiter Antonio di Benedetto’s 1956 novel, the story is set in an unnamed Latin American country in 1790, and follows Don Diego de Zama, an official for the Spanish crown on his way to Buenos Aires.
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Magical surrealism as I'd never seen on film. Damned circumstance and the stillness of everything, despite the passing of the days. Nadie escribe al coronel. Zama, at the border, invents his own reality, Vicuña Porto invents his own name, the corregedor invents his war trophies, we invent our superstitions. Everything is magical, and everything is death.
A fundamental component of the practice of art-making (it is definitely a thing at which one practices) is developing and carrying out ideas regarding how to accomplish effects. Martel is a giant when it comes to devising audio-visual means. ZAMA is a masterpiece of the highest order. Having read the novel recently, I can say that decisions Martel makes in her adaptation consistently speak to nothing short of genius.
Un viaje espiralado hacia la demencia de la espera. Lo que queda de un hombre luego de que la esperanza lo carcome hasta convertirlo en otro, hasta mutar una vez más en otra cosa y empezar a caer de nuevo. Zama es la historia de un cuerpo que intante resistir, una fantasía colonial, una fiebre contagiosa. Martel, más que nunca, hace del sonido un aliado único para hacer de esta película un verdadero estado mental.
I want to rewatch it. I can confidentially say that it captures the nauseating feeling of reading the novel's short, dagger-esque paragraphs quite well, through long takes that aren't as long as you are thinking. I'd like to give this the 5 stars it deserves (and I'm sure Martel wants my approval!), but the unpleasantness of it all keeps suggesting otherwise. Film at its most seductive and trying.
Sublimely textural and narratively diffuse. Often wonders off on poetic curlicues in thrilling ways. The dense sonic landscape is richly unusual, filled to the brim with otherworldly chirps and swirls. The aural and visual are synthesized in a sophisticated fashion, eschewing plot for tone. The tactile world built in both set + costume are vivid and lived-in. Themes of masculine futility are especially intriguing. <3