Zama

Zama ★★★★½

the bureaucracy and brutality of colonialism, an ongoing punishment of bodies (and minds) with no reward. immersively pungent, overflowing with brilliant use of sound design and compositions.

on the compositions in particular: Martel emphasizes verticality within the frame but bodies are hardly ever contained in its boundaries, often cut off at the head or torso. this makes the images seem more narrow (even cramped) than they actually are, an illusion Martel further builds upon by drawing attention to their surprisingly vast depth of field, creating a sense of the "action" of a scene having been crammed awkwardly into the foreground. the figures visible in the background are often those of indigenous or enslaved people, who are either as still and carefully arranged as statues or simply going about their lives in that expanse at the back of the image (amidst violent exploitation and subjugation). but Martel pointedly breaks with this spatial arrangement for the film's final stretch, which takes place far from the colonial settlement where bodies sprawl in every direction and tall reeds and water add yet another dimension of depth to the compositions (as well as another hazard for the colonizers). this compositional language speaks eloquently in the final sequence of shots, but I won't go into spoilers on here.

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