Ana, mon amour (Netzer, 2017): Romania
Reviewed by Larry Gleeson during the Berlin Film Festival.
Romanian Director Călin Peter Netzer returns to the Berlinale Competition, having captured the festival’s top honor, the Golden Bear, in 2013 with his low budget, digitally shot, Mutter & Sohn, a mother-son relationship piece. Netzer’s entry this year, another relationship piece, is Ana, mon amour, starring Diana Cavallioti, as Ana, and Mircea Postelnicu as Toma. Ana, mon amour is a story of two young people who meet at the university and begin a co-committed love affair full of hopes and dreams with overwhelming feelings of mutual support.
Opening in tight framing, Netzer introduces us to Ana and Toma discussing Friedrich Nietzsche and Adolph Hitler. As the two become intimate, panic ensues for Ana. Toma caresses her belly and the two become intimate partners. Director of Photography Andrei Butică delivers highly crafted frames representing the tenderness and closeness Ana and Toma share. Mihaela Poenaru provides culturally revealing production design.
As the relationship evolves Ana’s panic episodes continue until medication is used and then reconsidered in conjunction with psychoanalytic therapy. Along the way, we meet both sets of parents and discover root causes for the affective emotional disorders Ana and Toma exhibit and experience.
Netzer shows Ana’s struggles and Toma’s attempts to cope with emotionally revealing close ups. In, addition Netzer incorporates the use of extended narrative flashbacks as Toma is participating in on-going, regular psychoanalytic therapy sessions.
In addition, Netzer addresses racial and social bias in Romanian society. Each visits the other’s parents home. Taking a cue from Milos Forman’s The Loves of a Blonde (1965) Netzer gives an up-close and introspective view exploring, in seemingly real-time, these racial and social biases in their respective familial households.
Afterwards, however, the two begin to isolate themselves from their families and friends. Moving into more graphic detail, Netzer effectively shows Ana unraveling and Toma’s increasing frustration at his own inability to stabilize her.
Eventually, Toma succumbs to the stress from Ana’s anxiety and walks away from his career becoming a stay-at-home husband/father as the two have chosen to embark on parenthood. Ana has now become the sole breadwinner. Unsure of herself at first, Ana begins therapy with a competent psychologist finding an inner strength from the insights and support she garners from her sessions. Toma feels left out and the relationship comes to a head.
In Ana, non amour, Netzer delves into some rather deep and heady territory including dream interpretation as it relates to psychoanalysis. The film’s narrative is strongly driven by Andrei Butică (Director of Photography) camera work and dynamic editing from Dana Bunescu (Editor) in revealing the multi-faceted aspects and multi-faceted complexities of relationship in a most intimate space. Bunescu would go on to win the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution in the categories camera, editing, music score, costume or set design. That being said, the actors more than hold their own in some very emotionally difficult scenes.
But above all, Netzer delivers a profoundly dramatic presentation on mental illness, how it’s overcome and the toll it takes on an adult, romantic relationship with Ana, mon amour. Netzer delves into some rather deep and introspective territory including dream interpretation as it relates to psychoanalysis while uncovering complex psychological affects due to repression stemming directly from long-held Romanian societal taboos.
Ana, mon amour is a beautifully constructed film revealing the psychological fallout from repressed desires in a most mature, adult fashion. Highly recommended.