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Zama

In the late 18th century, Don Diego de Zama—a Spanish officer settled in a remote, stagnating South American colony—waits for his superiors to authorize his return home to his wife and family. Years go by and the letter from the King never comes, forcing Zama to find another means of escape. Based on the 1956 classic novel by Antonio Di Benedetto.
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WHAT ARE CRITICS SAYING?

90

Village Voice by

Martel engages directly with Argentina’s colonial legacy, although her approach remains allusive and layered. She transforms Benedetto’s epic into a dizzying, sensory head trip about a man’s gradual psychological decay, allowing larger historical and political themes to emerge organically from her meticulous formal compositions.
83

The A.V. Club by A.A. Dowd

In its own befuddling, bone-dry way, this is a comedy—one that takes fiendish pleasure in puncturing the pomp and circumstance of a cog in the empire-building machine.
100

Slant Magazine by Christopher Gray

How strange and apt that the year’s most sensorially and ideologically dense film is also a comedy of microaggressions, built on the minor workplace humiliations of a pencil-pusher in the 1790s.
80

Screen International by Fionnuala Halligan

It’s confusing and heavy and bears down hard until a third-act swerve throws in colours and movement and spins the viewer out of the theatre in wonder. It won’t be forgotten.
100

Variety by Guy Lodge

The frustrating nine-year wait for new material from Martel has done nothing to blunt her exquisite, inventive command of sound and image, nor her knack for subtly violent exposure of social and racial prejudice on the upper rungs of the class ladder.
83

The Playlist by Jessica Kiang

The formal control is remarkable, but sometimes almost stultifying, as though Martel had spent every moment of this intervening decade plotting how to pack each scene more densely, to the point it feels like Zama” could maybe stop a bullet. It will certainly deter the less persistent viewer.
100

The New York Times by Manohla Dargis

Ms. Martel is exploring the past, how we got here and why, but she is more interested in relations of power than in individual psychological portraits. The monstrous must be humanized to be understood, which doesn’t mean it deserves our tears.
100

The Guardian by Xan Brooks

[Martel's] film is haunted, haunting and admittedly prone to the occasional longueur insofar as it runs to its own peculiar rhythm; maybe even its own primal logic.

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