It's clear where this slow-burning, scant-dialogue pic is headed from the get-go.

Two people visiting their Albanian jailbird spouses for a monthly dose of government-sanctioned sex instead find — and, not much later, do — each other in “Amnesty,” from tyro scribe-helmer Bujar Alimani. It’s clear where all this is headed from the get-go, so it’s a shame the Albanian-born, Greece-based filmmaker wastes almost half the running time on the protags’ separate lives before piling on the ironic twists as soon as they hit it off. Regional fests will provide absolution, but Alimani’s slow-burning, scant-dialogue approach won’t translate commercially offshore.

Elsa (Luli Bitri) travels to the capital monthly for her designated marital sex date (“This is a new European law,” it’s explained). Middle-aged Sheptim (Karafil Shena) does the same for his incarcerated wife. Unemployed Elsa’s occupied with her preteen boys and hardnosed father-in-law (Todi Llupi), while Sheptim keeps busy with his porn vids and leaking washing machine. Around the halfway mark, pic finally hits its stride and then spends itself almost immediately. Lenser Elias Adamis’ compositions underline the loneliness of the characters, and wisely keep the faces of the criminal better halves offscreen.

Amnesty

Albania-Greece-France

Production

A 90 Prods., Fantasia, Arizona Films production, in association with Albanian Film Center, Greek Film Center, Nova. (International sales: M-Appeal, Berlin.) Produced by Bujar Alimani, Thanos Anastopoulos, Guillaume De Seille. Executive producer, Tefta Bejko. Directed, written by Bujar Alimani.

Crew

Camera (color), Elias Adamis; editor, Bonita Papastathi; music, Hekuran Pere; production designer, Shpetim Baca; costume designer, Emir Turkeshi Gramo. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 11, 2011. Running time: 82 MIN.

With

Luli Bitri, Karafil Shena, Todi Llupi, Mirela Naska, Aleksander Rrapi, Artan Islami, Lulzim Zeqja. (Albanian dialogue)

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more