Macedonian filmmaker Teona Strugar Mitevska follows her previous film, When The Day Had No Name, with this awkwardly titled but fantastic feminist satire. God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunya follows a religious tradition “gone wrong” when the men of a small town in conservative Macedonia direct their anger at a woman who dares to challenge the patriarchy. Petrunya beats the men in recovering a crucifix that a priest throws into a river during the Epiphany procession; the holy artifact supposedly brings a whole year of good fortune to whoever retrieves it.
Similar to When The Day Had No Name, Mitevska continues to explore the theme of macho culture in her homeland. This is an equally bold – if less dark – dissection of pernicious misogyny. It addresses the influence the church continues to have on the state, and how it blindly condones of archaic patriarchal values.
Zorica Nusheva, who plays the titular protagonist, is something of a revelation here: Petrunya is an irate, unemployed 32-year-old who gradually realises the impact of her actions and how she can become a force for change. Her naturalistic turn convincingly conveys her transformation and nascent determination; she keeps you invested in her character’s plight even when some less subtle aspects of the film begin to emerge in the second half. Indeed, the drama surprisingly becomes a huis-clos, as Petrunya is taken to the police station; the location shift is used to introduce a critique of the media, who opportunistically leech onto her story. This act feels less inspired and it’s a shame that it rushes ending, thereby undercutting some of the impassioned and shrewdly executed dramatic beats that preceded it. That being said, these elements didn’t stop God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunya from being one of the most memorable entries in this year’s Berlinale competition strand, a film that remains a beautifully shot, heartfelt, and superbly caustic satire that is well worth your time.
God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunya | Directed by Teona Strugar Mitevska (Republic of Macedonia / Belgium / France, 2019), with Zorica Nusheva, Stefan Vujisic, Violeta Shapkovska, Petar Mircevski. Starts Nov 14.
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