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An experience from within the mind, expressed out in the open with vivid imagery - an exceptional film
revival054 October 2009
I had the great privilege of seeing this Belgian movie called Amer upon its first ever screening at the Fantastic Film Festival here in Lund, Sweden. It was a stroke of luck, given that I had virtually no pre-conceived idea about what this movie was all about, I had just read in the folder something about it being original despite giving a lot of homage to the Italian giallo genre. Didn't sound too bad, I thought. But in my mind the experience of Amer left a vastly bigger impression than almost any giallo I've ever seen. Not that a movie like Profondo Rosso isn't excellent, but this is just whole other story.

The giallo connection is confusing, so I'll just point out that the movie really isn't a giallo at all. It does give a lot of hints and bows, specially to the greatest works of Bava and Argento, but it's not preoccupied with these details at all, they remain details, and what the movie instead does is present a visual feast that you can only feel and experience. You're not doing yourself any favors by trying to follow a plot. I'd call Amer a drama, but that would also be misleading.

The movie is divided into three segments. In the first one we are in a spooky big mansion, following a little girl and her wandering about through rooms and hallways. She has a firm and hard looking mother dressed in mourning black. In one of the rooms lies a dead old man. She is consistently followed by a monstrous figure all dressed in black. Everything she experiences, she experience to the fullest and it's no use trying to part reality from dream world. When the little girl's feelings are strong enough, there seems to be no difference and the movie seems to continually express her mental world, rather than the "real". There is a magnificent, mindblowing scene where she catches her mother having sex with her lover. The incomprehensible sight causes the movie itself to literary break down. Words simply can't describe it.

In the second segment we see the same girl, now slightly older. But, certainly, not "old enough". We see her walk in sunlight, firmly side by side with her mother, both wearing summer dresses that dance along with the cinematography. Everywhere there are male predators. She runs away from her mother. She meet boys. She meet men. There is a tension and a danger in every shot, at times it seems as if the movie is breathing along with the characters, and it is impossible to tell if the danger is a thing of lust or a threat of death. In the third segment she is an adult, returning to the house of her childhood which now stands dead and abandoned. But the figure in black that haunted her as a child does not sleep.

I don't know when I will get the chance of seeing this movie again. It feels like a love story in my mind, I yearn and long for my long lost love. Will we ever see each other again? I can't deny that Amer is the definitive wet dream for a film critic or a film student, because it tempers with the limits of where narrative ends and imagery begins. It has the visual flair of Argento, but the perception of the characters and their world is as transcendent as in Tarkovsky's Mirror. The movie is jam packed with images that are surreal, deeply moving, sensual, scary and exceptionally beautiful. I keep feeling tempted to make silly metaphors like "the cinematography is making love with the editing" but you know what, that's exactly what this movie feels like. And I also think that it lays way beyond the shallow vanity that I guess you could accuse Argento for. I think the movie is expressing the feelings of the characters as they experience them. It is a rare thing in movies when you as a spectator can actually feel the heat of the sun, the sting from the thorn bushes, the spider crawling all over your body. It is unbelievably rare that we experience being given the look when the character feels it too. Most movies attempting to gain any kind of erotic charge fail for even trying. I have no idea how they manage to make it work in Amer. It is truly a fascinating piece of work that transcend from beyond the screen and somehow lures the audience in too. It might just be the most seductive film I have ever seen. From the insanely imaginative imagery in the beginning, to the profoundly striking close-range perspective in the adolescent middle, and the sheer weird and poetic amusement of the finale, Amer is just one of the rarest gems of movie making I have seen in a long time. I somehow have a feeling I won't be able to present my feelings for it in a proper way, and I do suspect it is a film that has to be seen to be believed, understood, experienced. I can, however, clearly state that it is one of the best movies I have seen this entire decade.
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Fine ingredients, but the cake is badly baked
jan_ulalume14 February 2011
Leaving viewers in the dark about the true inclination of a piece is commonplace in Art Cinema. I do agree that most mainstream films now are over explained and blatant with whatever plot device is being utilised. However, while i think it's good for the viewer to give a little of themselves to work at understanding a director's vision this was a little much.

The visuals are beautiful. Some of the little touches exquisite (the way the teenage Ana hypnotically chews on a strand of her hair was simultaneously abhorrent and alluring) I'm sure there is an intricate back-story here with allusions to Sigmund Freud etc (from what i've heard there is a portrait of him in the house, however i didn't see it) but i'm not hugely interested in discovering what it is. A little explanation can make all the difference. Some connection with the audience would have helped this piece along.

In the end, the plot made little difference. Its slightness WAS the film for me. I enjoyed the inspired jump-cuts and the obsession with body hair and sexual gratification. I was amused and disturbed. That's fine. But the film used these devices to the point of saturation. Overkill. Egotism.

I may be missing the point here, so be it. This film stands well as a piece of visual art. The vivid blue Mediterranean, the dark haired women, the gorgeous cinematography in general. But it is missing something as a film and thus with narrative. It would have worked FAR better as a short 15 minute piece.I would like to say i'd re-watch this and get to grips with what the director is trying to say, but that would be a lie. Certainly this film is nothing like the Giallo films of Fulci and Argento that i have seen so far in my admittedly limited viewing.
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A 90 minute perfume commercial
Maciste_Brother11 October 2013
AMER is all style with absolutely no substance.

It's a collection of over-directed scenes stitched together with overdone editing all about nothing.

Aside from the overdone beginning, which has very little to do with the rest of the film, in tone or anything else, the rest is just 60 minutes of shots pouty lips, of long hair ending up everywhere or of the wind blowing in between a young girl's legs or a middle aged woman's legs, sending her in constant state of near orgasmic frenzy. In this film, the wind is truly powerful!

Every little mundane detail is a sexual catalyst and this is amped to the nth degree, in case we couldn't figure it out after the endless number of close-ups of lips and flesh and sounds of heavy breathing.

For instance, when the middle-aged woman walks through the garden surrounding the mansion, the trees, plants and shrubberies she comes across seem to want to ravish her. This is me rolling on the floor with laughter.

This film has two directors, one of them being a woman but even so the so-called 'male gaze' has never been more omnipresent. I've never seen so many panties/crotch shots outside of a Spice Girls music video.

Its attempt to ape the Giallo style of filmmaking (which includes a cheesy retro poster) falls resolutely flat. Giallo films are first and foremost passionate and this film is as passionate as a dead fish washed up on a deserted beach.

A very shallow cinematic experience.
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Sexual awakening? Hey, whatever works for you! The movie can be interpreted as a study of navels, too.
fedor813 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
No story, no point, no script. Please, viewer, fill in the blanks yourself, and then feel as if you're smart. (Absurdist cinema as a confidence builder – the con-job that has healed many.)

Why have an actual plot? That's so old-fashioned, so passé. It's so much more "artistically valid" to throw in a few loosely related - or even better, totally unrelated - scenes together and then hope that there are enough suckers out there to mistake your laziness for genius. It certainly worked for Godard and a host of other cinema la-la-land charlatans.

"Amer" is a girl of few words. But then again, so is the movie which is dedicated to her rather confusing life. There are perhaps a dozen lines of dialogue in the entire thing. Note that I said "thing" and not "movie". Just because "Amer" runs for 90 minutes doesn't necessarily make it a movie. But that's debatable, I admit.

The thing/"movie"/whatever starts off with a little girl who lives with her parents and her zombie/dead/undead/barely-living/perhaps-living grandparents in a large mansion near the French coast. One would think the fresh air and beautiful vista of the French Riviera would lift the spirits of the population of French people that have amassed there, but that's not entirely or at least not always the case. There is an air of doom and gloom about (as is fitting for a dull flick aiming to be "artistic"). The living are constantly peeved except when they're having sex in upright position (the girl's mother), and the dead/undead are even worse: they are harassing little girls (she's alive, at least for now).

The girl, Amer, plays a game of hide-and-seek with her zombie grandma who may or may not be a flesh-eating demon. It's tough to tell, because grandma certainly acts like a hell's minion, chasing her poor granddaughter throughout the house, trying to snatch some sort of amulet or something from her. The same amulet that Amer hijacked from her dead?/undead?/zombie grandpa while he was lying asleep?/dead?/undead? in his bed.

To cut a 29-minute non-story short, the girl Amer escapes the clutches of evil Granma and makes it all the way to puberty, which is where the second part of the movie takes us. Yes, at hour 0:29 we are finally spared the continued shenanigans of the living dead (coz it does get a little tedious after about 5 minutes) and their 29-minute long game of hide-and-seek. Not exactly a cinematic experience to tell your (dead/undead/not-yet-born/unborn) grand-kids about.

Part 2. Cut to the girl some years later. I can't quite tell how old she is, strangely enough. At first she appears to be around 20, but after a 12-to-14 year-old boy attempts to kiss her pouty French lips, I start thinking that perhaps Amer 2 is meant to be in her puberty, around 15 or even less. Oh, well, who the hell knows. At least she doesn't meet a 55 year-old bald man and falls in love with him, which is the premise of 35% of all French dramas and comedies. This segment doesn't last long. Soon we are to enter Amer 3. Ehem, I meant, we're to enter Part 3 with Amer 3.

Part 3. At around 35 Amer is pretty much into masturbating all the time. This is a French movie, after all, so obviously she's going to be obsessed with sex 24/7. She does it during taxi rides while sticking her head out the car window, and she does it in her bathtub. In the bathroom, an unknown assailant tries to drown her. It's a half-hearted attempt because Amer 3 manages to save herself simply by unplugging the water in the tub. Not exactly a master-killer this one. Or perhaps he was just teasing. Who knows. It's a French art-film, we are not supposed to understand anything, so just the fact that I can tell you that someone was trying to kill her is a phenomenal success in itself, meaning I actually managed to understand SOMEthing here.

Some time later, the taxi driver approaches the house. He must have come for sex. Someone bars the exit of the mansion so the taxi driver draw out his knife (don't all cab drivers carry knives while on their sex-related rendezes-vouzes?) But before long he is being cut to pieces by the mysterious assailant. Hmm. Was it Amer 3 herself? We are meant to think that, but then she is attacked too (perhaps ANOTHER assailant? anything is possible in a silly flick like this; after all we had a retired old zombie couple chasing around a young girl). The movie ends with Amer 3 stiff in a mortuary. Dead. Braindead. Just like the movie.

If you haven't seen this goofy little French bundle of pointless pretentiousness then you might think I'm joking. But I'm not. This really is the basic outline of "Amer 1-3", so if you enjoy absurd, lazily written, meaningless "art horror" flicks about sex, mutilation and the "coming of age" (ha ha), then rent this out or download it from a torrent. Have a ball. Just don't get upset if you start yawning, because this is "art", after all.
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An eroticized homage to "The Maestro Of The Macabre"
melvelvit-115 October 2011
The NY TIMES called AMER "an exercise in giallo (eroticized horror), a richly colorful mosaic of sinister sidelong glances" while the LA TIMES enthused, "a nightmare vision of desire and fear -gorgeous, heady, dazzling!" but these pointed paeans are only partly true. Except for the odd snippet, there's no dialog or musical score in the three vignettes depicting the life of a disturbed young woman (childhood, adolescence, adulthood) and although the last sequence contains elements of the giallo, the film is more of an homage to the indelible images of "maestro of the macabre" Mario Bava.

AMER's first segment on a child's reaction to her grandfather's death re-imagines the opening tale in Bava's trilogy I TRE VOLTE DELLA PAURA (aka BLACK SABBATH) from prying a valuable object out of a dead man's hand and the nightmare that follows right down to the dripping water and eerie blue, green, and red light that bathed the terrifying tableaux. The second segment on the girl's dangerous sexual awakening combines Bava's OPERAZIONE PAURA (aka KILL BABY KILL) and it's white soccer ball with the nebulous evil-under-the-sun aura of Tennesse Williams' SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER. The third and final scene that sees the young woman revisiting the abandoned villa where she grew up actually does reference BLOOD & BLACK LACE-style gialli with its black gloves, straight razor, and stalking sequence that leads up to a graphic murder. Unfortunately, there's only one (barely set piece) slaying in AMER and this dreamy collage of jump cuts, split screens, and undeniably beautiful imagery is less than the sum of its parts which may prove disappointing to hard-core horror fans. Cineastes -and those who enjoy avant-garde narrative as well as color-drenched kaleidoscopic visuals- should, however, get their money's worth. Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani's offbeat endeavor also reeks of Roman Polanski's REPULSION and I found the "eroticized" exercise admirable but more dull than anything else.
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Not my cup of tea
Leofwine_draca24 May 2015
Yeah, I'm really not a fan of these 'style over substance' style movies. I saw this film's follow-up, THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY'S TEARS, before I saw this, so I had some idea of what to expect, but still this film's almost entire lack of storyline and coherent narrative was enough to finish me off. I get what the filmmakers are doing, and I'm a huge fan of the giallo genre, but this just smacks of pretentiousness and comes across as completely pointless.

AMER tells the visual story of a girl whose life is chronicled in various parts. She's subjected to a terrifying experience as a child, and then her perfect life as an adult is brought into jeopardy by the intervention of a mysterious stranger. There's no more to it than that; this is an entirely visual production, with thousands of cuts and edits designed to make the most beautiful experience ever.

The images are great, and the soundtrack is hugely evocative, but the whole thing lacks so much substance that it's a real chore to sit through and it seems to go on forever and ever. This is from a guy who's been enjoying the art films of the likes of Werner Herzog and Kim Ki-duk. But AMER is a case of the 'Emperor's new clothes'; the lights are on, and they're very pretty, but nobody's home.
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I must be far too stupid to understand Amer
p-t-welsh3 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
As a fan of giallo, surreal and 'arty' films, as a bilingual French speaker and lover of Truffaut, Bunel and Goddard as well as Bava, Argento and Fulci, this should have been my kind of film. But Amer is a 90 minute waste of celluloid. The saving grace is its beautiful locations. My immediate reaction to the opening scenes were that it was filmed in the same villa as 'Hatchet for the Honeymooon'. I've checked this and hatchet was filmed near Rome, whereas Amer was shot (well thrown lazily together whilst drinking absinthe) near Menton. But, good start if it is to be an homage to Giallo. To be fair the first of the 3 segments is an OK student giallo pastiche. It is eerie, confusing and slightly disturbing. This would be fine if it had any narrative link to the rest of the film. The 'middle' section is possibly amongst the worst waste of time I've ever spent in front of a screen.A dreary real-time walk into the village while mummy gets her hair done then chasing a football down a hill to be confronted by the lamest bunch of pseudo bikers (on 50cc mopeds) I've ever seen. Give me strength! The final segment is OK in a confused way and is littered with Argento references most notably from 'Profundo Rosso' and 'Tenebrae'. And then it ended. which was about the best bit.
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Would concur with the overbaked cake reference
askmonroville23 February 2011
I have to agree with jan_ulalume's review in that this may be avant-guard to those who have never seen such imagery, but to those who have (in essence) grown up on this stuff, it is more akin to a "giallo's best hits".

With the "camera looking through the clear lightbulb shot" from SUSPIRIA (along with the colored lights directed onto people and key subject areas), Fulci's preoccupation with eyes and nose bridges, even encompassing Bava and countless other Italian filmographers filmic visual ques (WHO SAW HER DIE's funeral veil POV), like the former reviewer states it becomes over-saturation of style to the point of becoming ridiculous.

I will say that the first segment with the little girl is the best, simply due to the fact that there seems to be more of a coherent story that one can follow compared to the other two segments, which focus primarily on visuals alluding to some set of visual metaphors (even Zalman King wouldn't go this far), not to mention that the last segment's "twist" is (regardless of how predictable it may be to those familiar with these things) isn't built up very well at all.

Regardless, I would still suggest it (at least the blu-ray, as the clarity may help the viewing experience a bit) at least just to take it in. Maybe with some editing and some more giallo music (as the second and third acts are nearly music-less, which hurts those sections quite a bit for me) the movie could come across better...
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Part giallo homage, part avant-garde mood piece
Red-Barracuda2 March 2011
Amer is an example of pure cinema if ever there was one. It's a movie with extremely little plot and very minimal dialogue. While on one level it's a homage to the Italian giallo film, it's at least equally an avant-garde experimental piece. If you could imagine a collision between Suspiria, A Lizard In A Woman's Skin and Meshes of the Afternoon you wouldn't be too far off the mark. It's similarity to the latter Maya Deren film is where it might be problematic to those who think they are in for a true homage to the giallo, as this is a movie that is more of a mood piece than anything else. Admittedly it's a pretty dark mood but nevertheless this is first and foremost an experimental work. Your tolerance level for narrative-free avant-garde cinema will be the deciding factor in whether you like this or not.

It's about a girl called Ana. And it's divided into three sections: childhood, adolescence and adulthood. The first part is the most impressive; it's a deeply creepy segment about the child at a highly traumatic moment in her life, involving her dead grandfather and her witnessing her parents having sex. It's full of surreal nightmare imagery that recalls some shots directly lifted from Suspiria, with the requisite intense colours – greens, blues, reds – with a creepy soundtrack of sighs that also recalls that famous old film. The second part loses the momentum a bit; it switches to a sunny outdoor locale and has the teenage Ana accompany her mother in a trip to the local town, where she seems to experience some sexual awakenings. The final part has Ana arriving at the run down family home again; this part incorporates some of the fetishistic giallo motifs that you might expect.

Amer is a highly stylised film. The cinematography is constantly inventive and artistic. There is a preponderance of close ups; in particular eyes and skin. The compositions are beautiful and the use of widescreen is excellent. When you see a film like this it does make you shake your head sadly when a film such as The King's Speech is nominated for best cinematography at the Oscars ceremony. As fine a film as it is the cinematography in that film, and most winners of this category in the Academy Awards, is solid yet so safe and unremarkable. This little film from Europe wins hands down against any contender from this year's Oscars in that category. But films like Amer are never nominated for Academy Awards and never will be. Rant over.

The film features a purely retro music soundtrack from the likes of Bruno Nicolai, Ennio Morricone and Stelvio Cipriani; the opening piece being from the Sergio Martino giallo film The Case of the Scorpion's Tail. And I suppose that opening would make you think this film is going to be a straight homage but as I have said it really isn't. Amer is most certainly not a film for everyone it has to be admitted but if you like gialli and avant-garde cinema then I think you would do well to at least give it a try.
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Images and sound
Chris Knipp9 March 2010
Cattet and Forani are a Belgian couple who have made five short films together. This is their first feature. Divided into three parts, it focuses on childhood, adolescence, and womanhood in the life of Ana. Each moment is seen symbolically, very sensually, but without much discernible narrative, in a marvelous display of stylized visuals (in intensely colored and multiple-filtered 35 mm. images). There is a powerful, hit-you-over-the-head soundtrack. The material is fragmented, beginning with the images of eyes, presented in long horizontal rectangles. A girl is browbeaten by parents, or a couple anyway, whom she witnesses through a keyhole, shut in, and comes upon having sex. Later she also contemplates the hardening corpse of her dead grandfather. White grains under a bed. An ant. A spider. Loud booming sounds, which unfortunately in the Museum of Modern Art screening room blended with the underground sound of a rumbling subway line.

Later, the girl grows up and the film, which begins with dark interiors in an old house, switches to a sunny, Mediterranean, outdoor world. We are near Menton (credits indicate later), on the margin between the French and Italian Rivieras, along the Cote d'Azûr or the Amalfi Drive. A gang of motorcyclists with leather and metal and tight jeans stand by the road with their cycles. But we see only bits and pieces of them.

And this goes on and on, never ceasing to be beautiful, lushly noisy, sensual, fragmented, narrative-free. Amer, which means "bitter" in French, may be ideal for those who like to revel in "pure cinema."

There is one trouble though, and that this film tends to turn neurosis -- or desire, whatever it's about, which isn't altogether clear to me -- into a fashion shoot. It's said to mimic the style of Italian "giallo," pulp fiction, or the Daria Argento kind of stuff, and Italian movie music is among the many sonic allusions. Initially the feel is very much like something Spanish, or the Guillermo del Toro of Pan's Labyrinth. But as time goes on the impression of a fashion shoot undercuts the evocation of dream and fantasy through visual means. What might have been edgy, subtle, and memorable turns to chic kitsch. Or slick horror, when someone plays around with a straight razor in a threatening and suggestive manner as in Dali-Buñuel's Andalusion Dog.

While I and others with me found Amer hard going, despite its accomplished visuals, a British online reviewer called Alan Jones (reporting on the London Film4 Frightfest) was entranced, delighted with the evocation of Italian "gialli." He concludes, speaking of the late segment he explains is a walk along the highway to the hairdresser: "Charlotte Eugene-Guibbaud couldn't be more tantalizing as the hair-chewing Lolita either with her mini-dress hem flapping against her knickers at crotch-level. Maria Bos is pure Florinda Bolkan in the eyes-reflected-in-knife-blade finale, the portion where debts to A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN are felt the most. Shimmering with a lush vibrancy and utilizing recycled Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai, Stelvio Cipriani and Adriano Celentano music within its superb sound design, AMER carries an erotic and exotic charge I never thought could be replicated again outside such essential gialli as STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER or the classic Dario Argento Animal Trilogy. AMER is a faultless masterpiece, so just relax and breathe in the heady perfume of Cattet and Forzani's dazzling lady in black."

This glowing report shows the potential Amer has as a festival film that may, since Magnolia has bought it, get theatrical attention. However, in my view Cattet and Forani have not essentially moved up from their five short films to a feature, because this is merely short-film material spread out over ninety minutes, divided into three, and diced up into many edited visual fragments. A series of stylish pastiches does not a feature make. The conception is too slight and too fragmented to work as a real feature film. Nice eye candy though, and as Jones says, the sound design also is definitely "lush."

Shown as part of the New Directors/New Films series co-sponsored this year by MoMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center and sown in New York at both the Walter Reade Theater and MoMA's Titus Theater in April 2010. Amer has been shown at many festivals between September 2009 and spring 2010.
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style over substance.
crone764 June 2011
I am a fan of Argento and the influences of this film. To be honest though I found this film to be good for the first section, the rest was dull and weak. The lack of story could be accepted by the art house feel of the film but that's not always an excuse for poor films. If I hadn't been a fan of what are considered superior genre films then maybe yes I would have seen the vision and delivery. To finish, but not reveal this brief review, the last section is shot in daylight dark. There is really bad light filters used which add a cheapness and only add to the already confusing story line. I would suggest a better example of a similar style film would be the Jess Franco film Eugenie. Better still Betty Blue.
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Pointless experimental ego-trip
Skjlow20 March 2010
The Belgian premiere in Brussels. The directors acknowledge the fact: Amer is a "trip" as they say. Actually a pointless experimental ego-trip. You can dance on your head or hide yourself behind the few selections the film had in festivals along the year you won't make me believe now that Amer is a good movie. Helen Cattet and Bruno Forzani, the directors, play a very easy game here: they avoid to direct actors (they are all like wax mask scattered with screams from times to times), they avoid dialogs, they avoid any narrative, they avoid the most elementary editing syntax by pouring jump-cuts all over the place (and please don't call it "style" it is not subtle enough for that). They conveniently justify the experiment behind the banner of the Italian genre Giallo but it is far from a Giallo. Amer is at best a collage of cliché inspired by Giallo. But in fact it's just a very unconvincing device which fails to hide the weakness of the direction.

Amer is typically the kind of film which also attempts to avoid critics by standing behind the ever heard: "You just hate the film because you don't understand it." Sure, give me that. A bit too easy. Oh, by the way, I did notice the portrait of Freund in the staircase and the numerous film citations but it takes a little more to make your film an intelligent work.

If one look back to the previous short films of the duo it won't take long to realize that their films didn't evolve much in ten years, And actually Amer is closer to a bad student short film which would have been stretched out into a feature length film. And this is the most painful part of the "trip": as long as it doesn't cost much money the experiment is fine. That's what short films are made for. It's a laboratory. But when it reaches the scale of a feature film it becomes very inappropriate, even shameful, especially those days of economical turbulence. Amer is a nearly 1 million Euros experiment partly based on state funds. "A tight budget" complain the two spoiled children in an interview. But I'm sorry this is serious matter, this is public money. You can't waste it the way Amer does it to the face of the audience. Much higher and better things could have been achieved with that money: a film for instance.
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The schism between sexual awakening and its denial
chaos-rampant8 March 2011
When I included Amer in a short list of films I was eagerly anticipating in 2010, I wrote that I was looking forward to "ostentatious cameras that go on a discovery of psychosexual nightmares, a stylish violence, jazzy grooves". I'm a big fan of Italian genre cinema, especially gialli, for me they fulfill the needs comic-books do in others. When I say I'm a fan, I mean that when Stelvio Cipriani's song La Polizia Ha Le Mani Legate (originally part of Cipriani's score for Roma Violenta) finished playing in Amer's end credits, I rummaged through my cd collection to find it.

But, even as I was writing that a few months ago, Amer already had a reputation as more than a giallo film, "arthouse" people insisted, which intrigued me more. So, does Amer reward the giallo fan with the wink of film reference, or is the giallo only the trope of an expression intended for a different audience?

To go back to my appreciation for the giallo as comic book, it's the mentality of the colorful panel that appeals to me, the vivid bits of casual violence to strike a chord and be forgotten after the next page, the indulgence on something that reaches only as deep as the excitement it provides. To put so much effort or go through all the trouble for the pleasure of something momentary, this exaggeration is essentially the province of youth, where the fling of a few days burns with the passion of true love. In this sense, the giallo rejuvenates me.

That in mind, Amer is at once an apotheosis and a keelhaul of the panel, an overkill of shots capturing small details, of closeups of eyes or reflections or bits of the human anatomy. It's a world come alive through the senses, by a child overhearing conversations from behind closed doors, or a young girl feeling the first tingling of a booming sexuality in her skin. There's very little dialogue and this appeals to me, because the convoluted plots were always my least favorite aspect of the giallo.

But if Amer is not pushed forward by people talking, does it establish other means of communicating this story of sexual awakening and repression, the schism that follows from a child discovering a cruel world or a teenager being denied that discovery on her own?

I'll say yes, but with reservations. Still, what's important for me, is the tweaking of the filmed image to see is there another way to make cinema, the nature of an experiment whose results can only be appreciated in the future. Better said, if we peel a cabbage we get the core, but if we peel an onion? Some will say we get nothing, but we've done the peeling and we've transformed the onion, so can we really say that? The cinema of Amer is that peeling.

Two things particularly stand out for me here in this cinematic depiction of trauma.

One is the root of it, seen through the kaleidoscope of a child's awestruck imagination. A child's feverish nightmare shot in the otherworldly cyans and magentas of Mario Bava, where disfigured old men and strange hooded figures reach out to the camera. This is probably the most horrific part of the movie.

The other is the cause and effect of the teenage girl's sexual awakening. The directors explore this with a marvellous sense of exaggeration, of a complete fetishization of sexuality and the human body. When the young girl comes across a group of bikers, we get blurry closeups of chrome, of throats undulating or the trickle of perspiration, of buckles and boots. The girl approaches them almost solemnly, clinging to her short summer dress, with an air of fearful apprehension and the irrepressible instinct of a moth drawn to a flame. Before her discovery can be consumated, her overbearing mother shows up to slap her for the offense and take her away. Simple, crude some may say, but brilliant in getting a point across.

It's in the film's conclusion that we find the giallo lurking in the shadows of a ruined mansion, where the black-gloved hand of the killer slashes the dark. The directors give us the killing hand but with a twist, another contraption of the giallo.

What about the intended audience though? I feel that Amer will appeal more to fans of the sexual psychodrama of Repulsion, than the fan who will seek out a film like Amuck for the profound pleasure of watching giallo queens Barbara Bouchet and Rosalba Neri make out on the same bed. The lurid tradition of Sergio Martino is only honored in the selection of epochal musis by the likes of Bruno Nicolai, Morricone or Cipriani.
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What to say? Invent a new word for how boring this is.
Finfrosk8618 June 2015
Saw this movie at Frightfest Glasgow.

And let me just start by saying oh my good god and holy ghost and mother mary, this is so fantastically boring.

Yeah, yeah, before you get your sweats in a wrinkle, I get that it is supposed to be "art", and blah-blah. But that doesn't mean it has to be boring.

There is close to no horror here, it is absolutely not a horror movie. There is one scene that is actually pretty creepy, but that's it.

No more. No more horror for you! Get out!

Really. It is a lot of, uhm, silence, and, I don't even know what to call it. Just, super mellow. People looking through key-holes(?), scarfs blowing in the wind. I don't know.

I feel a little douchy, because I'm sure the people who made this are nice hardworking people and I doubt they would call this horror. It should definitely not be shown at a horror movie festival. No, no, no.

It should be shown at a can-you-stay-awake-though-this-festival.

During the whole movie I hoped for the horror to start. In every scene (feels like about 14 hours long) you wait for something to happen, then no. Just a new scene with nothing cool.

I was so happy when this movie was over. That's not what you want from a movie!
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Much more than just a homage to the Giallo film
Boris_Day28 February 2010
I was lucky enough to see Amer at the Glasgow Film Festival yesterday.

I have to admit that from the publicity I expected a straightforward homage to the 70s horror films and thrillers by Dario Argento, but what I got was both much more challenging and interesting than a mere genre exercise or homage.

Amer is just as indebted to surreal dream films like Meshes or the Afternoon, Un Chien Andalou, Lost Highway and Valerie and Her Week of Wonders as it is to 70s Italian Gialli. The thing that always intrigues me the most about 70s European exploitation cinema are the surreal imagery and the moments of avant-garde poetry that are nestled within the haphazard thriller plots. This distils 70s European Giallo and horror films to their avant-garde essence, disposing of clunky police procedurals, performances undone by poor dubbing and frequently questionable attitudes to sexuality and women and it puts the Giallo films frequently ravishing imagery and sound in service of a dream film about a woman's sexuality becoming twisted (amer = French for "bitter") over a lifetime by repression and thwarted desire. It gets the look, sound and atmosphere of those films absolutely spot on.

Despite Amer's almost non-narrative nature, this is a much more faithful and thoughtful homage to 70s Grindhouse films than the Tarantino/Rodriguez venture, which never really got the look right or got under the skin of its sources the way this film does. There are so many clever moments here. I particularly liked the heroine ageing a decade via an ant from Un Chien Andalou, a character who only appears as a silhouette and whose presence is always accompanied by the sound of crackling leather (in reference to the typical Giallo killers leather gloves) and the sheer joy generated by sudden bursts of vintage soundtracks by the likes of Stelvio Cipriani.
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Simply superb homage to the Italian genre film of the 60's & 70's.
Coventry3 June 2010
Watching "Amer" at some point preferably sooner than later was more than just an option for me; it was practically a necessity. There aren't too many genre movies being made in my beloved home country of Belgium, so us fans have to encourage every single attempt. And "Amer" is, in fact, an even more impressive accomplishment for Belgium because this film is much more than just a genre movie on itself; it's a downright elegant and upper-class homage to the Italian genre film of the 1960's and 1970's! I met the writer/director's duo Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani at a mini film-festival in Brussels were they presented their film to fellow admirers of unusual cinema. They're a young and admirably modest couple who are clearly obsessed with gialli and the particular filming style of certain Italian directors like Mario Bava, Dario Argento Massimo Dallamano and others. Over a period of less than ten years the couple made a handful of short films, but they clearly just served as "exercises" for their ultimate masterwork entitled "Amer".

The script pays tribute to the giallo movie without actually being a genuine giallo. The movie doesn't feature any sadistic murders (except for one notably grisly moment near the climax) or explicit sex sequences (although a lot of sensuality) and the plot doesn't necessarily revolve on the manhunt for a deranged knife-wielding maniac. Instead, "Amer" pays its respects towards the stylistic trademarks and design of the giallo. The film is a non-stop smörgåsbord of cinematographic elegance (imaginative camera angles, specifically focused close-ups, POV shots…), experimental photography (delusional color schemes, intentionally rough editing…) and recognizable giallo soundtrack classics (with Stelvio Cipriani's theme song of "What have they done to our Daughters" as a mesmerizing highlight). There are hardly any dialogs in "Amer", and yet all your senses – particularly the hearing – will nevertheless be tantalized.

"Amer" slowly unfolds in three almost equally hypnotizing chapters, centered around three important key-moments in the life of a beautiful girl named Ana. The first chapter is about childhood fears. Ana lives in a ramshackle old house with her continuously arguing parents (her mother is a furious Italian wench) and her recently deceased grandfather in his bedroom. The creaking doors, the echoes inside the exaggeratedly large mansion and the constant peeking of voyeuristic eyes through the keyholes leave a vast impression on the young and petrified girl. In the second chapter, Ana has grown into an incredibly beautiful adolescent. Not a whole lot happens during this part of the film, as Ana and her mother simply walk across the little rural village and receive a giant number of envious looks from the townspeople, but it's definitely my personal favorite chapter. Thanks to the music and lewd photography, this part of the film is the most perfect homage to the Italian 70's. The second chapter of "Amer" might as well have been cut straight out of films like "In the Folds of the Flesh" or Dallamano's "Venus in Furs". It's guaranteed one of the sexiest pieces of film you'll ever see. The third and final chapter has the now adult Ana returning to her parental mansion, only to be confronted again with her childhood fears and imaginary pursuers. This chapter particularly plays as an ode to suspense and psychedelic trips. The three chapters glued together form a nearly impeccable wholesome, but of course you need to have some affection and feeling towards the era of the giallo. Watch it, if you can!
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Scarecrow-8817 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
"Amer" has three parts, sections, chapters, whatever you want to call them following three specific periods in the life of Ana, her as a child, virginal teenager, and a young woman experiencing an unusual sexual awakening. Even in the second chapter, you feel something sinister could happen to Ana as she seems to purposely drift towards danger (in the second part's case a group of bikers). The first chapter has young Ana interested in a timepiece clutched in the hands of her grandfather (who may or may not be deceased), experiencing her first sight of sex catching her parents in the throes of ecstasy while attempting to avoid her creepy grandmother (I call her the "lady in black" as she wears a black dress and shawl, her face almost always hidden). The second chapter has a teenage Ana, walking with her mother to a store for groceries (her mother also is there to get her hair colored and dried), chasing after a soccer ball she kicked away from a boy interested in her, finding herself in the company of a rugged motorcycle gang. The third chapter has Ana returning to her childhood palatial home, now in ruin and decay, possibly in jeopardy of becoming the victim of a psychopath in black leather gloves, carrying on his (or her) person a straight razor. In the third chapter is a taxi driver who drove Ana to her home after she got off the train.

The direction by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani never allows the film to remain grounded in reality, but instead they opt to pursue the desires and fantasies of the protagonist who seems to have kept her inner yearnings and sexual passions held imprisoned within. But, even more interesting, is how the sexual evolves into a weird psycho-sexual, with Ana's fantasies growing more violent until a victim finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. The camera work is up, close, and personal, and if you are not a fan of extreme close-ups of the flesh, of the eyes, of the mouth, then this film will certainly annoy you. There is also a heavy emphasis on sound, whether it be leather rubbing skin or the metal of a straight razor tapping teeth, cloth of a dress beating away thanks to the wind (in the second chapter, we see how the wind flaps open Ana's dress repeatedly, her panties present in quick bursts), the use of comb teeth to pleasure the flesh, or this ominous sound of heavy breath, the directors want us to always be aware of the characters and surroundings revolving around Ana during each chapter of her life. I firmly believe what we witness as a child can have a great impact on our lives as teenagers and adults, with Ana experiencing terror and sex first hand at such an early age, shaping the woman she would become. The use of color is pure Bava and the POV is all Argento, while the more giallo elements feature prominently in the final act, when there's a nice bit of savagery that punctuates Ana's journey into the abyss. Tantalizing shots of hands caressing skin (particularly at the end, with erected nipples further conveying the erotic charge such caress brings), little knowing smirks that signify Ana knows men are watching her closely, and a dress ripping apart at the sewn seams as Ana is caught up in the wind while having her head out the window during the taxi drive to home, all add a sensual quality that is present throughout the movie—this is the ultimate sexual awakening movie that turns dark and deadly. Eye popping cinematography from Manuel Dacosse and impressive editing from Bernard Beets ensure that the film carries a mood and aura so surreal and off-the-wall, we experience all the sights and sounds that are present near and around Ana (even an ant or spider pose a threat to Ana, crawling up her leg or into her hair). A bearded face, an eye through a key hole, aged fingers creeping towards her: all seem to offer the possibility of evil or harm to Ana. "Amer" will be certain to frustrate some viewers while others may find it a tough slog, but I think those interested in something a bit different and unusual might like it.
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jotix10031 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
"Amer" shown recently at Cinema Village, is a film that deals in psycho sexual matters in the stylized way European directors love to present. It is a creepy movie that involves a lot of ideas that play, in a way, like a stylized video, but without music, and lyrics. In a way, it reminds us of some of those installations at MOMA, where videos like this play to captive audiences, exciting some, but boring most of the people that approach the space.

The film was conceived by Belgian directors Helen Cattet and Bruno Forzani. Evidently, it is their tribute of those 'giallo' Italian films, of which Dario Argento has made a career directing. There is story behind the images one sees on the screen. Much is left to the viewer's imagination since what happens in the film has no dialogue, but it is clearly the story of a young girl that is traumatized from her early years, first by the death of her grandfather, and then by witnessing a passionate sexual session by her own parents.

After a while, the film becomes somewhat tedious because it appears to be pretentious, trying to find audiences that find pleasure in watching this genre, but without Mr. Argento's humor. Cassandra Foret and Charlotte Eugene-Guibbaud play Ana, as a girl and then as the teenager she becomes. Marie Bos is seen as the adult Ana.

Manu Dacosse is the cinematographer who works with dark images to convey the creepiness of the atmosphere the directors were after. The editing by Bernard Beets arranges the different shots in an artistic way to please the viewer.
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Outstanding exercise in modern giallo....and so much more too!
suspiria5616 August 2011
Cinema can be a powerful thing to behold. Not only as a means in which to express whatever saga it may desire, but also to provoke feeling and thought in its viewer. Much has been made, certainly in academic terms, of what the audience perceives through cinema, and this unique and astounding Belgian gem conveys this like no other piece of film in a long time. The triptych story, following the life of Ana through her childhood, her coming-of age adolescence, and her eventual becoming as a 'woman, is clearly focused on using cinema as a medium in its purest form. Dialogue is sparse, images are vivid, the editing poignant, not a shot goes by without meaning. As a reference point, we can cite the giallo movement as an immediate connection, yet AMER is so much more than a mere homage. Recalling the great works of Franju, Bava, and Robert Weines' 'The Cabinet of Dr Caligari', to name but a few, modern menace and eroticism is also adopted here to startling effect. A lot has been expressed in terms of a lack of narrative as a main cause for concern. For this viewer it is the complete opposite, in that we are made to feel the fear, the sexuality, the loss, of our vulnerable protagonist, not too dissimilar to Jires' Valerie. A film to experience, interact with, rather than simply allow. Enter and take pleasure in the real power of this medium. Unfortunately all too rare in modern cinema.
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Truly a fantastic work of cinema, highly recommended
Bloodwank3 September 2010
Wow, just, just wow. I'm in half a mind to just not write a review of this one, not until I've seen it a few more times, but then there is something to be said for getting thoughts down from a first impression, even if inevitably such thoughts may only have a shallow grasp of the film and thus cannot quite adequately put its greatness into words. Put briefly, Amer is a remarkably intense art-house film dealing with three episodes in the life of a woman called Ana, first as a young girl, then as a teenager and finally as a grown woman. Not the most arresting plot one might think, but the film is fed by themes and visual tropes of vintage giallo cinema, it also employs a number of classic musical themes from the likes of Ennio Morricone and Stelvio Cipriani. I'm not that well versed in giallo films, just enough to get a hold on what I was seeing and the films Bava homage at one stage, but I did notice Cipriani's theme from What Have They Done To Your Daughters appear, to my delight. So it has a solid horror edge to it, particularly in the first and final sections, the middle one fired with subtler menace. The film is from the woman's point of view and contains minimal dialogue, all the better for it to astonish with a constant barrage of powerful imagery and directorial invention employed with such flair and vigour that one wonders early on how it can possibly be sustained, then is left awestruck as the film does just that. Shots slow down and speed up, slip out of focus, draw into disturbing close ups, there are all manner of colors, angles and distortions, combined with startling editing (this film has some of the most cuts I have ever seen) all impeccably backed by sound design so rich and detailed there is almost a feel of physical presence upon the flesh while viewing, a moment with a comb on a tongue typical of this. For those who decry such styling the film is best avoided, but the usual criticism of empty style is useless here, the sound and images represent experience, mental states of longing, fear, trauma and desire in the most inescapable way, it is a tremendous work of turning style towards substance Nothing in the film is separate from Ana and her experience, it seeks to overwhelm and does a monumental job, a film to near drown in as our heroine moves from longing to fulfilment, childhood fear to adult terror and simply, innocence to experience during the course of her life. The visual styling also serves to deconstruct the giallo genre homaged so heavily in the film, its visual tropes broken down to their psychological significance and assembled as narrative of the psyche, it's a dazzling treatment of the genre and a crucial aspect of the films transformation of style into substance. Acting is superb as well, from young Ana's skittery, immature behaviour and fear, through teen Ana's sultry sensuality, to her final stages as mature, disillusioned woman coping with events as everything comes to a head. And indeed the finale is a terrific example of development and binding together of themes, all comes together in tense and ultimately satisfying fashion. For writing/directing partnership Bruno Forzani and Helene Cattet this is as auspicious a debut as is humanly possible, certainly the finest new film I have seen this century. Its only imaginable drawback is that it simply isn't likely to appeal to those who crave conventional narratives or dislike art-house cinema, it is certainly not a film for the layperson. But really, that doesn't mean a thing in the end, brilliance is brilliance, populist or not. A truly deserved 10 out of 10 from me then.
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Extraordinary feat
grantss20 July 2017
As a young girl Ana was a rebellious child. She was also tormented by images of death and a shadowy, ominous figure in black. Now an adult, she is once again tormented by shadowy, other-worldly forms.

An extraordinary feat. In making this movie the director(s) managed to turn 15 minutes of meaningless and random plot into a 90-minute movie. Done by doing almost everything in slow motion and repeating one action over and over, often without even changing the camera angle.

Incredibly pretentious and containing no substance whatsoever this movie is truly devoid of any positive qualities. Avoid at all costs and save yourself some time.
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A random mess..any other comment is pointless
ironfist69913 February 2021
This movie tried to be artistic...and give an essence of mind play...with quality.Didnt hit any of that.Under the veil of"metamodern" and "sofistication"lies a abnoxius hideous nothing.
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Fluctuating between abstract eroticism and surreal mysticism: this is beautiful.
bartkl-16 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Fluctuating between abstract eroticism and surreal, paranoid mysticism, this film certainly is weird. Surprisingly enough though, it becomes less vague while pertaining the surreal style. As the film progresses, it seems so that the entire bizarre nature of the film is the reality of Ana, who's not just a weird little girl, but actually turns out to be a disturbed mentally ill person, like a autistic paranoid schizophrenic.

She is extremely sensory/perceptive and also sensual in a more erotic and carnal way, as is shown beautifully using closeups of lips, eyes, legs, etcetera. Not to forget the extreme intensity of light now and then, and to accentuate the sensory aspect also the use of primary colors, filing an entire shot. The visual style is very creative, and feels really authentic to me. It's minimal and focusing: everything serves to demonstrate the reality of Ana.

All the mystic amulet stuff in the beginning, which invites you to try to make sense of it all, turns out to be the little girl's condition using her imagination to make up this reality. There's no mysterious amulet, neither is her grandma trying to hurt her. It's all in her mind, she's very paranoid and frightened. Possibly the shocking discovery of her parents making love while she ran in for help contributed to her weird seductive attitude and carnal desires at adolescent age. She is clearly sick and feels abstract, sexual attraction to the soccer playing youngster, but also with the older motorcyclists.

Then she's slightly older, returning to her parental home. She takes a bath, and almost gets drowned by a pair of gloved hands that seem to be the same as those of her grandmother in the beginning. Later when she's trying to sleep, the taxi driver pays her a visit. His intentions are never exactly clear, but he's visiting her at night with a knife, so he's certainly up to no good. However, there seems to be a third person at work, once again the person with the gloved hands. It is in these scenes that I learned that it's actually Ana herself. This becomes even more obvious when she cuts up the taxi driver and takes of the gloves.

Ultimately this virtual person chases her again and seems to kill her, which means of course she's committed suicide. One question remains for me though: why does she open her eyes at the end of the film? Personally, I think it's a bad choice that wants to suggests it's unclear whether the final scene is an actual autopsy of her apparent suicide, or another of Ana's delusions. I might be wrong though. It's unclear and I think she should have had her eyes closed ;-).
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Art & Essai
Emulator293 November 2010
This movie is a awesome example of camera technique & photography of movie maker. The only pb comes from the lack of interest of the script. It's definitely a masterpiece in picture, color, light, photography, camera movement and angle of vision management. To me it's more "Art" than "Cinema" . The filmmaker is obviously putting camera technique at his best but he should also more consider the storyline. At some point it seems that all those skills in technique are a waste in a quit boredom plot. I will categorize this "Amer" (bitter) in a "Art & Essai" film. Of course past the fascination in the skills of the filmmaker, come the moment when you feel like watching a succession of handsome image & picture ...but it seems pointless because of the lack of interest of the story. Even a slide of beautiful women/men become interest-less ( topless or not !:^) when it last for too long.

I'm still admired of the way "Amer" was shooting but too bad the plot is interest-less.As a cinema lover i can only recommend to have a look for the sake of beauty but don't expect to be entertain. It is definitely not a "blockbuster" Hollywood or bollywood like !. To be short it a very good example of what American call "like a french movie" :^) ( despite it's also part of very good Belgian cinema !) 8/10 for the camera but only 4/10 for the plot

PS : a funny thing i've seen on the statement of the end, someone was "stunt" girl for the scene with an insect . It seem the actress Maria Bos was afraid of spider & Ant :)))) and couldn't let those little thing wander on her skin !
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Spoilers follow ...
parry_na10 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
'Amer' arrests the attention from the word go, with some imposing imagery of little girl Ana's (Cassandra Forêt) place within a frightening house and amongst even more creepy relatives.

It is easy to see the similarities between this and Directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani's later 'The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears': they are clearly in love with the visuals and there is very little dialogue. Whilst the first of the three 'chapters' is genuinely morbid and creepy – and my personal favourite segment – the second, in which Ana (Charlotte Eugène Guibeaud) encounters adolescence (she could be anything from 14 to 20 years old) focuses on her leap, or slither, from little girl to the object of desire. There are many suggestive shots of various body parts and awkward closeness with others. It doesn't really mean much. In fact, it doesn't mean anything at all, other than it is part of Ana's 'journey'.

So then, the third act. Ana is now played by Marie Bos. Suggestion of much light masturbation. Stunning scenery. And a slight return to the intimidating feel of the first segment, with her seemingly returning to her abandoned family home. Despite apparent chance meetings, Ana is very much alone. These moments of her retracing the steps of her childhood remind me of the less than comforting homecoming of Pip, all grown up, returning to Miss Haversham's ruined building after his adventures. Here, the house is baked in sunlight, and any adventures Ana has had are so obscurely filmed and her character so thinly drawn, we can only appreciate the beautifully shot décor, the unmade beds, the flaking wallpaper, the stunning scenery and the ghostly, discarded porcelain dolls. But the sense of unease comes to the fore once again – whatever the shortcomings of the art-house style this film embraces, the protracted ending is a heady mix of the sinister and sensual. There is an antagonist, but we are not even sure if he is real. Does he represent the dark memories that haunt her? One thing is for certain – nothing is certain, especially Ana's eventual fate.
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