Nightsiren (Svetlonoc) Movie Review
Nightsiren (Svetlonoc) Movie Review Metadata
Nightsiren (Svetlonoc)(2022) is rural gothic folklore with a modern edge. Twenty years after the purported disappearance of her little sister, Šarlota (Natalia Germani) has returned to her village to claim what is left of her late mother’s home and belongings. Šarlota escaped to the City for an education and professional trade but has returned to suspicious faces and unwelcoming glares. The only person willing to speak with her is Mira (Eva Mores), a young woman who deals in herbs, both the ancient remedies and the modern pick-me-ups. They click easily, drawing the ire of other villagers for their frank, unapologetic natures. It isn’t long before small mishaps and strange coincidences turn suspicion toward the newcomer. Staying with Mira and wandering the mountain trigger memories in Šarlota and she begins to wonder if her sister may still be alive. The villagers resent her questions stirring up the past, as well as the novelty her visit brings. Life in general is an uncomfortable subject with more than a few suspicious deaths they will all have to answer for. With secrets of her own revealing themselves under less than convenient circumstances, Šarlota searches for answers that come at a high price.
Nightsiren is isolation plus folklore plus superstition, handed down through mountain-dwelling generations like a cherished recipe. Director Tereza Nvotová builds suspicion into the mundane, from common woodland creatures to romantic feelings that can never be expressed. A remote Slovakian village in the mountains has just enough of the modern conveniences like electricity and cellphones and cars to only feel rural but is remote enough where the Old Ways are never completely stamped out. Domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and misogyny all become the fault of the women with very little desire to change. At times incongruous, with lantern light and cell phones, automobiles and stoning, the winding road between civilization and the village acts as a stark dividing line between reality, and the harsh fairy tales modern scribes rewrite for happy endings.
The far from linear approach Nvotová takes creates a dreamlike narrative where there isn’t a single reliable memory. All of the tropes of the witch in the woods, from the creepy cabin to the missing children can be rationally explained, but no one ever rallied a mob from common sense. This is not to say there isn’t a little magic in the woods under all of that oppression.
Nightsiren (Svetlonoc) (2022) is unrated, but call it Rated R for swears (if you know Slovak), child abuse, child death, nudity, suicide, sexytimes, sexual assault, beatings, stonings, drug use, and animal death.