AMER (2009) – The Dungeon Review!
I found this poster for Amer at least a year ago whilst looking for a completely unrelated film. I loved the poster’s art work so much I saved it with the intention of finding the actual film. Look at that poster! It screams Giallo! A film maker that would go to the trouble of having artwork that fantastic clearly had to be a big fan. Directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani are indeed fans of Italian cinema and there is no disputing that Amer is an homage to the great Giallo of the 1970’s. This moody and stylish piece is eye candy of the highest order emulating the visuals from the likes of Dario Argento, Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci. The colors of Dario Argento’s Suspiria, the Fulci eye close-ups (sadly without the Fulci eyeball gouging!) and the classic Giallo soundtrack with music from Bruno Nicolai, Ennio Morricone and Stelvio Cipriani. Cattet and Forzani create something quite unique and mesmerizing and despite the aforementioned nods and a black leather-gloved killer Amer is really more of a sexual psychodrama than a horror thriller.
Amer centers on Ana and is divided into three sections; childhood, adolescents and adulthood. Ana’s childhood brings nightmare imagery from the overactive imagination of a child who has seen her dead grandfather laid out in his bed and her parents having sex. Adolescents brings with it Ana’s sexual awakening much to her mother’s chagrin. Adulthood brings Ana back to the abandoned home of her childhood where old neurosis hide in every nook and cranny.
Amer could have worked as a completely silent film as there isn’t a word spoken that is integral to the story. In fact there is very minimal plot and very little dialog at all. The film is highly visual. It is downright voyeuristic actually. Cattet and Forzani choose style over substance but the result is quite hypnotic. Amer is like flipping through a stranger’s photo album. It is a series of interesting and beautiful snapshots that leave only vague clues about the person captured. Ana’s childhood is brimming with atmosphere. Her torment is visualized in reds and greens, wet beds, cracked fingers and mother’s belt. The line between what is real and imagined is blurred. The mood changes considerably during Ana’s adolescent segment. Ana and her mother are walking outdoors on a bright summer day. They don’t say a word to one another but you can sense the chill over the relationship. Ana’s mother is struggling with aging and the eyes of men now crawl all over her under-aged daughter. A red sports car passes by and mother undoes a couple of buttons on her blouse. The car’s driver scopes out Ana but when he gets a look at mom he races away. The pouty-lipped Ana wanders off while her mom is having her hair done and discovers a bike gang. We watch Ana slowly drift past the line of bikers. Close-ups of throats, sweat dripping from temples, boots and metal and naive, but painfully self-aware Ana trying to prevent the wind from blowing her short skirt up. We finish up with Ana’s Adulthood. Ana goes back to her creepy childhood home. This is where we get a twist, men in shadows and black leather-gloved killers. Ana spends this section silently milling about the abandoned home jumping at every sound and sight she happens upon. Although this is the most Giallo-esque of the three segments it is actually the least interesting visually. This film leaves much to your own interpretation. Those who need a straight-forward narrative will find Amer frustrating.
Ana is played by three different actresses in Amer. I actually thought the adolescent and adult Ana were the same actress they looked so much alike. Although the characters barely say a word the entire film I was impressed with the performances from Cassandra Forêt, Charlotte Eugène Guibeaud and Marie Bos who play Ana. Bianca Maria D’Amato is also superb as Ana’s chilly mother. The actresses all give strong physical performances that relay much without dialog.
As aforementioned, I would qualify Amer as a sexual psychodrama with a spattering of Giallo and horror elements. I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t hoping for a body count, stylish kill sequences and a wildly convoluted plot but Amer won me over despite this. Amer may be more style than substance but what directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani achieve is quite impressive. Amer is a visual feast that is a mesmerizing treat. Highly recommended.
Dungeon Rating: 4/5
Directed By: Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani
Starring: Cassandra Forêt, Charlotte Eugène Guibeaud, Marie Bos, Bianca Maria D’Amato, Harry Cleven, Delphine Brual, Jean-Michel Vovk, Bernard Marbaix