An intimate portrait of the codependency of love, Cãlin Peter Netzer’s Ana, Mon Amour falters through its very male gaze.
by Mark Wilshin
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Based on the novel Lumini?a, Mon Amour by Cezar Paul B?descu, Cãlin Peter Netzer lends his own autobiographical touch to Ana, Mon Amour giving his name to his hero Toma Calin (Mircea Postelnicu). Borrowing its title from Marguerite Duras’ Hiroshima, Mon Amour, Netzer’s film unearths the atom bomb that ripped through Toma’s life. Not that Ana (Diana Cavallioti) is exactly a fireball. Rather, thanks to a troubled childhood, she suffers from a medication addiction and a dependent personality. It’s the kind of woman French and now Romanian male filmmakers seem to love – beautiful with a touch of crazy. And for the majority of Ana, Mon Amour‘s runtime, there’s a misogynistic bent to Netzer’s very male-centred story; the fragile woman searching for agency and salvation from her male lover. And yet, over the course of their six-year relationship, the worm finally turns, Ana transforming into a powerful businesswoman, refusing to be controlled by her husband any longer. And now as their codependency is ripped part, it’s Toma’s turn to fall, losing self-confidence and independence as his power wanes.
Bubbling beneath the narrative’s surface lie all manner of ideas. Starting with a conversation on Nietzschean morality and echoed in conversations about Christianity’s dogma to suppress natural, sexual urges, the film ruminates on the mutilations our psyches undergo in the name of ideology. There’s also the fear of perpetuation, with congenital diseases, unsuitable marriages and “sub-par” children as well as the psychology of divorced children, who fear inflicting the same parental patterns on their own children. Despite a narrative structure inspired by the therapist’s office (the opening sequence, it turns out, is a free association of ideas from Toma’s first session), try as we might to piece together the logic of the rest of Netzer’s montage, Ana, Mon Amour settles into an achronology that serves to obfuscate its characters, leaving any kind of vivacity or energy to Ana’s character until almost the bitter end.
While Ana, Mon Amour plays with the misogyny of its original premise, it never quite recovers. Its penultimate dream scene (and don’t forget the onirists) brings the whole narrative into question, pulling the rug from under it and reducing it to a floating mass of ideas and images. And while it’s an intimate, handheld portrait of the ups and downs of love and the damage it might cause our identities, Netzer’s film makes for an engaging if ultimately loose exploration of love.
Ana, Mon Amour is now showing at the 67th Berlin Film Festival