Amer DVD Review

Written by Sarah James

DVD released by Anchor Bay UK

Written and directed by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani
2009, Region 2 (PAL), 90 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 31st January 2011

Starring:
Cassandra Forêt as Ana enfant
Charlotte Eugène Guibeaud as Ana adolescente
Marie Bos as Ana adule
Bianca Maria D'Amato as La mère
Harry Cleven as Le taximan
Delphine Brual as Graziella
Jean-Michel Vovk as Le père
Bernard Marbaix as La grand-père mort

Review:

In the 1970s Italy was famous for its visually stunning Giallo horror films, full of dramatic and scantily clad full-bodied women, mysterious storylines and eye-candy of all varieties. This slick French homage to the genre opens with an equally glossy montage, with split sliding screens, blocks of bright colours and a swinging, cheerful soundtrack. From the outset the styling is brash and colourful and very, very French. So much so you could be fooled in to thinking you are watching a European sports car advert unfold, rather than the highbrow erotic horror it is.

We meet Ana at three pivotal points in her life. The first time we see her she is about 9 years old. A young, affluent Parisian couple argues after finding a small dead bird in the house. They’re watched by Ana, their daughter, through a key hole. She runs to her room where she sees her witch-like grandmother, head covered in a black shawl, rising up from behind her bed as though she had been lying on the floor. Her grandfather is dead in one of the other bedrooms. And to top it all, she walks in on her parents having sex. Can’t this kid catch a break?

Next, Ana has grown into an accidentally seductive adolescent; teasing boys and nearly getting into trouble with her short skirt, only to be rescued by her forever furious mother. We see close-ups of her bare legs as an ant crawls along them, reminding us of her immaturity. In the final chapter, adult Ana returns to her empty family home and she is transported back in time to her childhood fantasies with tragic consequences. Whether in reality or in her mind, it is not clear where we leave Ana. Throughout, her mother looks at her with hatred, and her father with disdain.

Amer is pornographic in its styling and the soundtrack breathy, with flashing primary colours washing the screen making your heart race and close ups so extreme you have to make your eyes wide enough to watch. A structured narrative is absent here. Doors slam, transporting you to other rooms, reflections appear in the blades of knives and the film techniques used visually and audibly dizzy the viewer. In fact Amer treats you to such arty direction you have no option but to smile and perhaps clap and nod in equally arty agreement.

The danger with films such as this though, that leave so much to the imagination, is that you can’t help wondering if it’s all style over substance. Are you filling in the gaps because the creator wanted you to use your mind and explore all possibilities of the uncontainable story? Or, is there simply no story at all? Whatever side of the fence you fall on you would be hard pushed to deny it is visually a thing of beauty, inspired by the stunning Italian horrors of the past, sure to inspire many a young film student’s wet dream in the future.

Video and Audio:

French with English subtitles, but the dialogue is so sparse if you can’t read I wouldn’t worry about it. The colours are lovely and rich and the sound is crisp you literally hear pins drop. Aspect ratio 2.35:1

Special Features:

They made a real effort here and we are treated here to a selection of the writer/director’s (Cattet and Forzani) short films.

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