Amer Review

AMER FILMOpening with the propulsive beats of a soundtrack culled from the very best of seventies Italian explotation, and a split screen montage that challenges the viewer to piece together the images on offer, Amer confidently announces itself early on as an art film steeped in a variety of cinematic traditions.

Whilst the film has gained notoriety for being something of a ‘neo-giallo’ (a revisionist take on the lurid Italian horror of the seventies) Amer is as much steeped in the obsessions of Polanski , Cronenberg or even Antonioni and the visual style evokes the rich cinematic aesthetics of Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger and Luis Bunuel. Giallo is without doubt an obvious and heavy influence though. The compiled soundtrack aside the filmmakers clearly have a love for the Giallo masters and this bleeds into the thematics as much as it does the mise-en-scene.

A psycho-sexual triptych, Amer visits the central character Ana as a young girl, a teenager and a woman and at each point the film delves into her mind with disturbing and fascinating consequences. In the first section Ana lives with her parents and grandparents and following the death of her grandfather and the accidental viewing of her parents locked in a throws of sexual ecstasy she appears to retreat into her mind. The trauma, claustrophobic horror and confusion of her situation spills into the language of the film as colour is splashed with abandon and elaborate and extreme cinematography conveys the subjective intensity of her experience.

The second section finds Ana as a teenage girl visiting the beauty salon with her mother. This middle third is filled with the symbolic weight of a girl awakened to her own innate sexuality for the first time and the powerful experience of embracing of it. After entering a heavily symbolic dark tunnel early on only to emerge and encounter a young boy who clearly longs for her, Ana appears to cast aside this pre-pubescent sexuality. Shortly after this encounter she comes across a group of leather clad bikers. Walking towards them the camera suggestively leers at her, closing in on her crotch as her short dress billows in the wind.

Now wearing leather biker boots that evoke the previous sequence the third section opens with the now adult Ana flagging down and entering a taxi in which she travels to the house she lived in as a young girl. Despite the alluded to advances of the male taxi driver Ana enters the car after looking down at the driver, the camera lingering on the male’s crotch this time. The gaze is now more complex, the adult Ana even fantasises a sexual advance at one point which begins with a wind from a fan blowing her dress again. Arriving at the house Ana enters and it is in this final act that the more visceral and gruesome horror elements unfold.

This brief description merely provides a taste of the complexity that Amer offers. Filling their frames with dazzling imagery, filmmakers Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani offer up an intelligently crafted horror that eschews a simplistic narrative in favour of an intriguing collage, one that builds a dense film using a deep understanding of its language. A beguiling and fascinating experience.

This review was originally posted at Bleeding Cool.