There are some topics that are just hard to talk about as openly as others. Some either rub people the wrong way, make them angry, passionately outspoken, or all of the above. Rape is one of these subjects. Three Windows and a Hanging handles this subject very well, makes a statement, and keeps us hooked with its wonderful execution, quiet subtlety, and the fantastic performances by its lead cast. A film that is sometimes hard to watch, but should be watched.
A small village is just beginning to rebuild itself and settle into peace after the end of the Kosovo war. But the silence is shattered when Lushe (Irena Cahani), a school teacher, speaks to a newspaper journalist about how she and three other women from the village were raped by Serbian soldiers during the war. Her name is left anonymous, but as soon as the villagers find out it was her, she receives a lot of backlash. The men especially, led by village President Uka (Luan Jaha), shame her for speaking out, and then proceed to strip her of any respect she once had among the townspeople. All in the name of keeping the status quo.
As a woman, these kinds of films are very important. It’s like taking a microscope to this small town, and magnifying the problem tenfold so that it’s clear to see. Director Isa Qosja really zooms in on the ideologies and actions of the small town, the men’s roles versus the women’s, and the importance of protecting one’s own reputation over doing what’s right. So, there are a lot of themes going on in the film, and Qosja balances them all out pretty well. He develops characters through their actions and interactions with each other, and this isn’t just given to us through words.
The film’s topic is very sensitive and Qosja treats it with the utmost respect. There is no one character that is exaggerated just for the audience to be able to differentiate who’s good and who’s bad, but you’re pretty much left to figure that out for yourself based on your own opinions and moral values. This is not to say that Qosja doesn’t make his own statement about the whole situation, because he does, and very powerfully so, since he gives voice to the wrongs taken against women and the culture of shaming them for something out of their control. Regardless, Uka, who’s the ultimate unreasonable male is more than what he seems and isn’t the least bit two-dimensional.
Irena Cahani, Luan Jaha, and the rest of the cast are superb. They don’t overact, their performances are subtle and their characters evolve from the very first scene through the last. Their characters are essentially rich. The plot is simple and the characters are definitely the ones driving the film from scene to scene and not the other way around. They are written in a way that is very human. There are no heroics and no theatrics. There are just societal norms and humanity which take front and center as they’re being examined and questioned.
Three Windows and a Hanging is wrought with societal and cultural norms being brought into question. How one is raised and seen in society affects the way they react and take action. Core values are brought to the surface and some characters’ actions are called into question as the story unfolds and you realize that though everything on the surface is peaceful in the beginning, it is fraught with underlying tensions and the pressure of reputation and gender roles. Qosja takes care to keep the story well-paced, well-shot, and organized. He makes a statement about societal norms and cultural norms in a patriarchal society, about the terribleness of female shaming, and sets this all up to take place in small town so that it is more easily understood, yet still applied on a grand scale. A well-executed film and fantastic performances that leave one with a lot to think about and discuss.