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In the mountains of Albania, Hana, wanting to escape her forced role as a future wife and servant, takes a vow before the town’s elder males to accept total celibacy, allowing her to transform into a man. Now Mark, he can carry a gun, dress as male and enjoy (nearly) all the freedoms they share. The cost of this betrayal to her female’s role in the society is the abandonment of all physical pleasure and rejection of any form of love. For ten years, she exists as Mark in the hard, cold mountains until she ventures to Milan to she his sister. It is there where she wants to reject the oath and discover what being a woman in really about and taste the pleasure her body can enjoy.
Based on an actual practice in Albania, Sworn Virgin tells the story of a tradition dating back to the 15th century, though far less pronounced in modern times (latest number put Sworn Virgins at just over a hundred individuals living in the world). The practice, even though granting a woman more freedom as a man still strips them of many basic human rights, including freedoms to buy land and vote, though even wearing a watch or smoking are prohibited.
Directed by Laura Bispuri, Sworn Virgin (Vergine giurata) is an award winning internationally-produced film, starring Alba Rohrwacher, who Western audiences might know best from 2009’s critically-adored I Am Love with Tilda Swinton and 2014’s The Wonders. An actress who is well-established for taking challenging roles, she completely transforms herself here in a haunting, almost achingly beautiful way. Bispuri, in her major film debut, shows great promise with some striking visuals and patience that add tremendous weight to the already heavy themes. An Italian language production, the minimal dialog adds much to the isolation of Hana/Mark’s path.
Released internationally last year, Sworn Virgin arrives in New York on April 22, 2016 and should get distribution shortly thereafter.
Elvira Dones (novel), Laura Bispuri (screenplay)
Alba Rohrwacher, Emily Ferratello, Lars Eidinger