The spirits of Aegean refugees, suicides and unbaptized babies haunt the unhappy protag of "Shadows" until he learns the way to give them eternal peace. With this, his third feature, Macedonian helmer Milcho Manchevski remains unable to replicate the success of his debut "Before the Rain."

The spirits of Aegean refugees, suicides and unbaptized babies haunt the unhappy protag of “Shadows” until he learns the way to give them eternal peace. With this, his third feature, Macedonian helmer Milcho Manchevski remains unable to replicate the success of his debut “Before the Rain.” Overlong, ponderous and occasional risible, the symbol-laden pic is unlikely to find commercial prospects offshore, although selection to rep Macedonia in the foreign-language Oscar race should give it an extra push.

Opening with irresponsible young physician Lazare (Borce Nacev) in a near-fatal car accident during which his soul seems to enter that final tunnel, story fast-forwards a year to find him enjoying a holiday on the coast with his conspicuously wealthy parents, wife and young son. Returning to Skopje, he sees candles bobbing in the cemetery during rites for “Night of the Dead.”

In his apartment, things just aren’t right. The fridge is full of rotting food, and a wrinkled, black-clad woman (Ratka Radmanovic) is sitting on the couch, saying things in a dialect he doesn’t understand.

Lazar calls on an academic for help, but instead finds Menka (Vesna Stanojevska), a seductive young woman who translates, “Return what’s not yours. Have respect.” Although he’s surrounded by people taking things that don’t belong to them, the words don’t immediately resonate for Lazar.

After further cryptic encounters, including with a man (Salaetin Bilal) with blood seeping from his shoes who’s carrying a wailing baby, Lazar confronts his overbearing mother (Sabina Ajrula-Tozija), whose past deeds form part of the mystery.

Manchevski spices the spooky goings on with ample heavy breathing sex scenes — between Lazare and his bored wife (Filareta Atanasova), Lazare and Menka, and neighbors who copulate outdoors and get off on having people watch.

Perfs are melodramatically one-dimensional. Tech package gives able support to the otherworldly elements.

Shadows

Macedonia

Production

A Senka Dooel Film production, in association with Classic SRL, Blue Eyes Fiction,

Crew

Camera, Tornasal Films, Milkman Prods. (International sales: Bavaria Film, Geiselgasteig). Produced by Milcho Manchevski, Amedeo Pagani, Corinna Mehner, Nermin Gladers, Martin Husmann, Dimtar Gochev, Gerardo Herrero, Mariela Besuievsky. Directed, written by Milcho Manchevski. Camera (color), Fabio Cianchetti; editors, David Ray, Martin Levenstein; music, Ryan Shore; additional music, Kiril Dzajkovski; production designer, David Munns; sound (Dolby Digital). Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentations), Sept. 10, 2007. Running time: 130 MIN.

Cast

With: Borce Nacev, Vesna Stanojevska, Sabina Ajrula-Tozija, Salaetin Bilal, Ratka Radmanovic, Filareta Atanasova, Dime Iliev, Petar Mircevski, Vladimir Jacev.
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