Director: Lucrecia Martel
115Mins / 2018 / Argentina, Subtitles

After a nine-year absence following her masterfully ambiguous and haunting modern classic The Headless Woman, Argentinian auteur Lucrecia Martel returns with the equally astonishing Zama.

Adapted from Antonio Di Benedetto’s existential 1956 novel, it’s set around an 18th century colony perched on the Asuncion coast and ruled over by a distant Spain. Zama (Daniel Giménez Cacho), an officer of the Spanish Crown born in South America, waits for a letter from the King granting him a transfer. In a delicate position, he must ensure nothing overshadows his possible move, submissively accepting every task entrusted to him by the successive Governors who come and go as he remains. But eventually, as the transfer begins to seem more unlikely and he increasingly finds himself sidelined in favour of the Spanish-born élite, he joins a party of soldiers to go after a dangerous bandit.

It’s an intoxicating film, which like The Headless Woman creates its own peculiar atmosphere, rhythm and logic. Intense and consistently disarming – even at times, very funny – Martel’s assured style balances the personal and the political, as Zama’s frustrations and failings are viewed through the prism of the broader colonialist malaise of Spain’s imperialist grip across the Americas.