Review by Eli Hayes
From the April 2015 Issue
It’s hard to believe that Amer is the work of first time feature filmmakers. It’s so incredibly polished and confident, but then again, it’s scarcely a feature film; I almost view it as three separate but interwoven shorts, two of them brief and the final one more lengthy. The content is rather obscure and much of the film acts as a loosely-plotted homage to Italian horror films of the 20th century, but there’s enough originality for the film to transcend mere homage and become an experience of memorable distinctiveness.
Through the portrayal of three crucial days in her life, each of them separated by a space of multiple years, Amer tells the story of a young woman named Ana and her relationship with the demons of her complicated subconscious (which seem to manifest themselves in vibrantly colored hallucinatory sequences). It’s worth noting, though, that the filmmakers’ expressionist styles keep their audience wondering how they’re supposed to distinguish between reality and fantasy – a decision that may frustrate some viewers but one I found it utterly fascinating.
It isn’t so much a horror film as it is a highly internal psychosexual drama that utilizes genre storytelling and familiar, throwback styles to communicate its metaphors. I look at the film as an exploration of sexual discomfort, moving from the birth of Ana’s discomfort (“Ana enfant” segment) into the direction of her discomfort (“Ana adolescente” segment) and concluding with the result of this direction (“Ana adulte” segment), for lack of better words.
Amer does a fantastic job of being almost entirely visual and getting its message across without considering dialogue as a necessity. The cinematography and editing are nearly flawless in their combined ability to evoke rare and abstract sensory details, such as the sound of a specific memory or the smell of a particular day. Internal character dialogue is represented with images rather than language. Much of what is communicated in the film, between characters, goes unspoken and can be better explained by the order in which the filmmakers express their ideas than any number of words.
Many viewers have found this film to be highly sensual. However, while the sexual undertones are undeniable, I did not share this reaction. If anything, my viewing experience was the opposite of erotic, as it effectively displayed how unbearable and dangerous a culture of over-sexualization can be, and how human beings can fall victim to not only their surrounding environments, but themselves as well. The final moments of Amer, presented in the image of a highly eroticized corpse, are utterly brilliant in that they demonstrate our society’s tendency to over-sexualize even death. It is a conclusion that nearly brings the film into heightened meta territory.
Amer is cinema as pure emotion.
A gorgeous rainbow of celluloid.
4.5 out of 5 stars