Child’s Pose director and Golden Bear-winner Cãlin Peter Netzer returns to the Berlinale with Ana, Mon Amour, a tale of love, addiction and the memories of failed romances that linger and won’t be chased away. When we first meet, Ana (Diana Cavallioti) and Toma (Mircea Postelnicu) they’re at the preliminary stage of their relationship, flirtatiously testing the waters whilst talking about Nietzsche in a university dorm room.
Their love affair begins full of hope but it doesn’t take long for things to fall apart. “There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.” Taking Nietzsche’s quote about the logic of lovers and using it as his thesis, Netzer uses Ana and Toma’s relationship as a conduit to explore the instincts of fear and desire. If Child’s Pose was a drama about suffocating maternal love, then Netzer’s latest could be seen as a film built on daddy issues. The couple’s love is tested by Ana’s panic attacks, the cause of which appear to be linked to her father’s defection to the West and her stepfather’s parenting techniques.
Toma, on the other hand, has control issues with his father, tied to a sense of privileged entitlement. We’re privy to this through the guarded psychiatry sessions Toma has once the relationship is over, where he recalls his relationship with Ana in an attempt to find closure. Alternating between bristling courtship and weary demise, these memories are presented in random order. As one narrative strand starts to unravel, another knits together. Many of the reoccurring themes in modern Romanian cinema are here, namely class-consciousness and the generational divide caused by a transition to free-market capitalism.
Sadly, there’s little in the way of bromides or feel-good aphorisms and the film feels like being sucked into a downward spiral of depression. Netzer only offers the briefest of rest bites from this tragic love story, although a scene in which Toma takes confession with a priest, only to be lectured on how much he spends on cigarettes, showcases his ability to capture the humour that resides in the bleakest of moments. The film’s non-linear structure, although an accurate reflection of how the mind seeks to find order and reason in the entropy of memory, means the only way to track the chronological order of events is through Toma’s receding hairline.
Andrei Butică’s measured, unobtrusive camerawork does a commendable job of evoking the unspoken feelings and moods of the couple. Yet Ana, Mon Amour’s haphazard chronology means these emotions are randomly shuffled on top of one another resulting in a lack of cohesion and a film that’s all meat and raw nerve, but very little heart. Effective in articulating how relationships work as a way of transferring and understanding the unspoken and unseen feelings that lay dormant within us all, Netzer’s intelligent portrait of a ticking time-bomb relationship sadly lacks the warmth and tenderness required for it ever to ignite.
The Berlin Film Festival takes place between 9-19 February. Follow our coverage here.
Patrick Gamble | @PatrickJGamble