In a remote mountain town where superstition permeates every inch of the wood, a legend about a witch takes seed. Sarlota (Natalia Germani) returns, decades after the accidental death of her younger sister caused her to flee, answering the call to accept an inheritance. Surrounded by the traumatic memories of her childhood, Sarlota begins to settle into her Mother’s abandoned home. After being awoken by strange midnight banging she has an odd encounter in the fields surrounding the property. There she befriends kindred spirit Mira (Eva Mores). Together they try to unravel the mysteries surrounding the events of Sarlota’s childhood and the mysterious witch Otyla (Iva Bittova) while navigating a town full of people accusing her of being a witch herself.
There’s an eerie juxtaposition going on in Nightsiren, coupling the modern tribulations women experience and the ancient persecution of what’s different from the norm by way of witches. The commonality is uncanny. The primitiveness of the townsfolk, clinging to ancient superstition, causes them to view the return of Sarlota as an omen. A nurse by trade, she is perceived as a witch and trying to do harm whenever she tries to help, fighting back after being assaulted brands her as a “slut” and her friendship with Mira generates whispers of homophobic fear from the villagers. This all culminates into a hate-filled mob tracking down Sarlota and Mira when some local children go missing, all but confirming the legends of the witch. With an ending that’s left up to interpretation, there is definitely something larger at play here that I’m not entirely sure I understand but I’m here for it.
Broken into chapters, this strange trek involves everything from the drama of small town minds distrusting of outsiders to ancient Midsomer rites and ritualistic orgies in the woods. There are white robed women dancing among the trees, naked bodies writhing in the dark lit up by glowing blacklight paint, snakes (lots of snakes), ancient customs clashing with the modern world and herb induced psychedelic trips. It runs the gamut and at times left me completely confused but enthralled. I was immersed in the folklore and regardless of the language barrier was invested in unraveling the twisted story Nvotova was weaving. With so much going on, she was able to present a compelling folklore driven narrative without having any moments of drag. Before this sophomore effort, I wasn’t familiar with Nvotova’s work but I am now and I will be digging further.
Nightsiren from director Tereza Nvotova is a strange journey into folklore and superstition, where women are persecuted just for being “different” and not following antiquated societal norms. The acting was well played from all around. Germani, Mores, Bittova and the supporting cast drew me in and had me glued to the screen. The hauntingly gorgeous location coupled with the skillful cinematography makes this film stand out as a recent favorite of mine. You can find this one in select theaters and probably VOD soon to follow.