Identity, mystery, sex and the surreal collide in Milcho Manchevski's erotic thriller "Shadows", which opened today exclusively
at Cinema Village in New York City.  At left is Vesna Stanojevska as Menka, and at right is Borce Nacev as Dr. Lazar Perkov.  
(Photo: ęBavaria Film International)

In A Mysterious Macedonia, The Carnal Meets The Surreal, With Erotic Appeal
By Omar P.L. Moore/January 30, 2009                            SHARE
"Shadows" is a stunning and endlessly suspenseful erotic thriller.  This must-see artistry by director Milcho Manchevski leaves a magnetic imprint on the moviegoer.  The film chronicles the travails of Dr. Lazar Perkov, a man who escapes death in a fantastic car accident in the heat of the night.  He is thankful for life, and his colleagues dub Lazar, a man who has a beautiful wife and child, "Lucky".  But Lazar (played by Borce Nacev, pronounced Bor-che) appears anything but, plagued by visitations from people and things he either imagines, actually sees, fears or are objectively real.  An elderly woman turns up in his apartment.  She says something he cannot understand.  Lazar enlists help from Menka, a translator (Vesna Stanojevska).  He's convinced that he's onto something.  Or is he?

Mr. Manchevski crafts "Shadows" as a series of episodes of mystery and discovery which are nothing short of compelling.  Each avenue leads to something astounding or intriguing, and Hitchcockian themes of identity and duplicity are a powerful chorus line throughout this absorbing drama.  Mr. Nacev fuels his character with purpose and persuasion, combining innocence and curiosity with impulsiveness and edgy paranoia.  The performance is all the more impressive for the fact that Mr. Nacev has never acted before on the big screen.  "Shadows", a 2007 film which finally has its U.S. theatrical release premiere with an exclusive opening today at the Cinema Village in New York City, is set and shot in the small southeastern European country of Macedonia and cinematographer Fabio Cianchetti photographs the film in mainly bluish-greenish hues, further illuminating the depth of the landscape as well as removal from it.  On many occasions Mr. Cianchetti's camera frames scenes in a naturalistic atmosphere, making some of what the audience witnesses within the scenes all the more vivid.

"Shadows" is also written by Mr. Manchevski (director of the multiple award-winning debut film "Before The Rain" and "Dust") and he never plays games with his audience.  He takes his viewers as seriously as he does the genre of his film, which veers toward the substantially less graphic edges of horror, accompanied by discreet glimpses of the odd and ribald.  Miss Stanojevska illuminates the big screen as Vesna, a complex but alluring figure who strongly resembles the legendary Isabella Rossellini throughout the film.  Miss Stanojevska projects a convergence of sweetness, smarts and sex appeal, making her character incredibly resonant.  While watching Mr. Manchevski's film it's hard to believe that like her male counterpart in "Shadows" Miss Stanojevska never had any prior big screen acting experience.  By day, she is a harpist for Macedonia's National Opera and in "Shadows" Miss Stanojevska plays all the right notes. 

The director never resorts to the kind of visual cliches typically found in the horror-thriller realm.  He directs "Shadows" at a smooth and pedestrian pace and in his hands the film is always an alive and interesting entertainment.  You are riveted both in thought and in awe of its pace and rich visuals.  Mr. Manchevski directs this film meticulously, with an strong eye for creating images conveyed in moments both languid and kinetic.  "Shadows" takes a thoughtful look at issues of life, love and death in a refreshingly honest and adult way.  There are several sexually explicit moments which while erotic and beautiful, are neither gratuitous nor without symbolic or substantive meaning.  These scenes are directed with a tenderness, passion and affection that clearly shows.  There's never a minute where we feel that we are surrendering time to just watch a sex scene as a departure from the narrative.  There's never a feeling that we are intruders in a discussion of sensitive subjects -- the film's devices and scenarios, spiritual, religious or otherwise -- are all devised in the most authentic way.

Though the third act contains a few visual effects that it can live without, "Shadows" is a wonderfully literate and eloquent human drama.  It's definitely a film that Mr. Manchevski, who heads the Directing Department at New York University's Tisch School Of The Arts Graduate Department, should instruct his students to take a five-minute trip down the block to see -- on a day that he's not teaching class, of course.

With: Sabrina Ajrula-Tozija, Salaetin Bilal, Ratka Radmanovic, Filareta Atanasova, Dime Iliev, Petar Mircevski and Vladimir Jacev.

"Shadows" ("Senki") is not rated by the Motion Picture Association Of America, but it contains several scenes of erotic and strong sexual content, with very brief moments of disturbing imagery and some violence.  "Shadows" is in the Macedonian language with English-language subtitles.  The film's duration is two hours.

Related: A Conversation With Milcho Manchevski, director of "Shadows" ("Senki")


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