treads on the tricky path where art film meets horror – and
this Belgian/French movie succeeds at it surprisingly well.
A loving tribute to 70s
Italian horror merchants like Dario Argento and Mario Bava, it is similarly
obsessed with the figurative intersection between sex and violence.
is a quiet and somewhat disorientingly cut – with lots of
quick cutaways, close-ups of eyes and specific body parts, moving in and out
of focus and shifts of garish colors in lighting. Amer even uses
background music directly from the older films.
(which is the French word for “bitter”) is endlessly
symbolic and often quite surreal (a teasing shot of a straight razor just
above an open eyeball is an obvious tribute to Salvador Dali and Luis
Buñuel’s classic surrealistic short film Un Chien Andalou).
is a very quiet film. I would be surprised if there are 50 lines of
dialogue in the movie and the main character (portrayed by three different
actresses over three periods of her life) probably utters less than ten the
The movie opens in a
beautiful-but-spooky old seaside manor in Belgium. An eightish-year-old
named Ana (played by Cassandra Foret) has to deal with a bitchy mother, an
odd veiled woman (her grandmother? Her nanny?) who is in the next room and
peeking in her keyhole, a dead man who may be her grandfather (and may still
be alive), dead birds, magical powders, trickling water, rancid food, seeing
her parents have sex in garish colors, odd sounds, shuffling shadows in the
night and a haunted pocket watch which seems to be trying to drag her to hell.
It all makes absolutely
no sense, and at the same time it is supremely creepy.
Flash forward six or so years. The darkness of the earlier scenes has been
replaced by a sun-kissed kitschy aura and is accompanied by swinging sixties
sax. Ana (now played by Charlotte Eugene Guibbaud) has ripened into a sulky
budding sexuality. She and her mother walk up a shore road to a local
village so mother can get her hair done. The camera follows them
voyeuristically, the lens ogling Ana’s light cotton sundress, peeking under
her skirt and at her budding breasts. Ana is trying to come to terms with
the new power she has over men, teasing a young boy with a ball with her
poutiness and then finding herself surrounded by a local motorcycle gang,
which she tries to negotiate through while the palpable sexual tension is
we move forward another several years, where Ana as a grown woman (Marie Bos)
returns to her abandoned old family mansion and gets into a violent showdown
with a surly cab driver.
said, the story makes little sense, but it’s really not supposed to. The
movie is more concerned with mood and disorientation than it is with
straightforward narration. In fact, writer/directors Hélène Cattet and
Bruno Forlazi’s schizophrenic camera and cutting style is somewhat similar
to Oliver Stone’s everything-goes sensory-overload style in Natural Born
Killers – though it works to better effect in this quietly disturbing
film than it did in that loud, overblown gore-fest.
honestly don’t know what this means, but while I was watching the DVD
screener of the movie, my cat was sleeping beside me and when the climax
occurred she got up and sat there, riveted, staring at the television – and
she never, ever looks at the TV. Undoubtedly that was due to the
eccentric and choppy editing and sound effects of Amer more than the
story, but is still a pretty neat trick for a movie to pull off.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: November 6, 2010.