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Thee Windows and a Hanging is the kind of movie that sneaks up on you. It’s very quiet, beautifully shot, and it almost seems a little meandering in the beginning, but in a good way. However, it gets very serious very quickly. Before you know it, what once seemed like a nice little film about a sleepy Kosovar town swiftly becomes a dark portrayal of the costs of war and patriarchal values. It’s a stark reminder that things are always more complex than they may seem. It almost bears a slight resemblance to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, in term of how there are always dark secrets lurking beneath simple and family friendly small towns.

It’s clear from the beginning that this small town in Kosovo has been having a rough time recuperating from the war. Old men talk about a dispute between neighbors and cows are donated by Switzerland to help out the townspeople. Lushe, the towns sole teacher, meets with a journalist, to talk about the war with Serbia. She mentions that after her husband and many of the other men left town, she and a few of the other women were gathered up and raped.

Soon enough, the article is published and read by the towns president, Uka, who also runs the general store. He and the other men are angry and ashamed that Lushe spoke. Soon, her son and her are completely ostracized from the community, while the men of the town go mad trying to find out if women in their family were raped as well.

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Sexual assault is already an incredibly bleak topic, but the treatment of sexual assault survivors by the town in this film is especially disheartening. Despite that, Three Windows and a Hanging is an absolutely stunning film. The breathtaking mountains and lush greenery of Kosovo serve as the perfect juxtaposition between the horrifying things that happen there. Director Isa Qosja and cinematographer Gökhan Tiryaki seem to be a big fan of wide shot and I can definitely see why.

There’s also a certain distance between the audience and the characters that is incredibly subtle but seems to grow more pronounced as the movie goes on. We’re often watching people through windows and at a far distance. At one point, a door is even shut right in our face, blocking the audience from an intimate conversation. The final scene is shot in almost complete darkness, making it impossible to tell how the characters are feeling.

I can, without a doubt, see why this was Kosovo’s entry for the Academy Awards. While it is certainly a sad film, it’s characters are interesting and complex without being overbearing. The film does not shy away from the depressing nature of sexual assault, but it also doesn’t get bogged down with sadness. Plus, there is an interesting mixture of breathtaking wide shots and close, slightly more intimate, scenes. It’s utterly captivating in a surprising way.

Three Windows and a Hanging screens on Sunday, March 1 at 4:30 p.m. at the US Naval Heritage Center. Buy tickets here.

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