Two women leave the city behind for a camp in the woods where there are classes in Balkan folk music and dance. A budding romance creates tensions and some apparent fugue states.
This movie left me with more questions than answers, but not especially good questions. For one, why a Balkan folk culture camp? Neither woman expresses a particular interest in Balkan culture nor seems to be participating much in the classes; one of them seems to be able to pronounce the words in a Slavic song, but it’s never explained if she has any sort of relationship to the culture. And why “Balkan”? It’s a weird sort of pan-Balkan camp, spanning Greek to Serbian to Romanian; maybe “Balkan” is meant metaphorically, in that these women, who seem to share so much, are driven apart and isolated by the very things they share? Or could this have been set in any old camp to the same effect?
And why is the camera work so disorienting and occasionally evokes motion sickness? I understand that it was shot with a DSLR, so it was necessary for everything to be framed between an extreme closeup and about five feet away, and that the auto-focus gets gimpy when things move too fast (or move at all), but surely it was a choice not to use a tripod, or not to rent the appropriate gear?
From the synopsis I expected something like “The Wicker Man,” or what I expect the upcoming “Midsommar” to be: city people stumble into a pagan ritual where Dark Things Happen. And there were some moments of creeping dread and unsettling oddness, and the lighting, so bright and green, was characteristic of classic folk horror. But except for a conversation (to which Sarah is only half paying attention) about evil spirits that can inhabit animals or the landscape, there’s nothing to tie the events of the movie back to the milieu of the camp or the setting in the woods. Perhaps there is something magical going on here, but the main characters are too dense and self-absorbed to see it, and because we’re trapped in close-up with their perceptions we can’t see it either, and if the damned camera had pulled back just a few feet and been bolted onto a tripod and FOCUSED FOR ONE DAMNED SECOND, everything might have been made clear.