“The Marriage” Is an Incredible Story About Queer Lives in Kosovo – Film Review

The Marriage Kosovo film queer
The Marriage (Image: PR)

The Marriage (or Martesa), the feature-film debut of director Blerta Zeqiri, has got to be one of the best queer films ever made. Emotional and thought-provoking, it paints a realistic picture of homophobia in Kosovo and how love is a universal language. No wonder The Marriage is Kosovo’s official Oscar entry.

I was provided a free screener of The Marriage for review. The opinions are my own.

I have to start by saying I FREAKING LOVED THIS MOVIE AND I DIDN’T WANT IT TO END! Now, let’s move onto the why.

I get certain people out there don’t want more heartwrenching and sad queer films. And while queer films about the happiness that comes with living outside the closet are important, more serious titles about facing homophobia are necessary, too. Coming out is still not easy for everyone, and that’s why films like The Marriage are vital because they talk about a different perspective and help bring such unfortunate issues to light.

The story focuses on three characters, all of them who have been impacted by the Kosovo war of 1999. The Marriage opens with Bekim (Alban Ukaj) accompanying his fiance Anita (Adriana Matoshi) and waiting in the cold weather for a new batch of unclaimed bodies from the war. Anita’s parents are missing and she desires closure as the date for her and Bekim’s marriage draws closer.

Bekim and Anita do seem to love each other. Zeqiri makes use of flashbacks to show how the two met. However, in the present day, their relationship experiences a hurdle when Nol (Genc Salihu) shows up. You can tell there is something between Nol and Bekim. But Anita, because of her relationship with Bekim, isn’t able to realize the two men are more than just friends.

Through the three characters, Zeqiri is able to talk about the homophobia is Kosovo as well as the Serbian terror against ethnic Albanians. It is impressive to see how so much can be told in a film with a runtime of approximately 90 minutes. Zeqiri is focused in her vision and the story she wants to tell. No scene feels out of place. Kudos to her and the editing team!

The cast does a wonderful job with their roles. Matoshi is lovely as Antia, a woman who wishes to move on and start a new life. Ukaj plays Bekim in a manner that will make you sympathize with him even though he is afraid to accept his true self. Bekim wants a life with both Anita and Nol, but he can’t have it. I don’t know if he is supposed to be bisexual or gay, but he is definitely someone who is hesitant to come to terms with his sexuality and the kind of life he wants.

Salihu as Nol is different from Bekim. He leads an open life as a gay man in Paris. He came back to Kosovo to ask Bekim to come to Paris with him and ends up experiencing heartbreak after heartbreak. I wanted to yell at Nol to leave Kosovo and not let Bekim make him sadder. But how can you let go of someone you still love?

The Marriage Bekim and Nol review
Nol and Bekim in The Marriage (Image: PR)

Also, Bekim does nothing to make it easier for Nol to leave him. Bekim still loves Nol, even though it has been years since they have been in contact with each other, and will continue to do so. The final scene at the airport killed me!

Being from a country where being openly queer isn’t accepted, and can get you killed, The Marriage felt very relatable to me. That’s why I think films like The Marriage still need to be made because coming out isn’t always an option for everyone and their experiences need to be represented.

All I can say is beautifully done, Zeqiri. Beautifully done.

Some more thoughts:

  • I loved how none of the main characters were vilified. You will sympathize with everyone because the film lets you understand how and why each character thinks and acts the way they do.
  • While Anita took some time to realize the truth about Bekim and Nol’s relationship (or at least she began to suspect), it is obvious Bekim’s family (especially Bekim’s sister) knew what the two men were up to when they were younger. The way Bekim’s family acted was similar to how many families still do; deciding to ignore their child is queer as long as he isn’t open about it and goes on to live a heteronormative life.
  • I loved the scene where Bekim drives a drunk Nol after picking him up from outside the marriage hall only to have Nol come back to the same spot he started from. You will understand what I mean when you watch The Marriage. It is an incredible scene.
  • Though I understood Nol’s bond with Bekim, he is clearly better off with someone else back in Paris. Many people can learn from Nol’s final decision.

The Marriage is getting an L.A. Theatrical release on December 7, 2018, as well as a VOD release on the same date. You all need to watch it.

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.

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