Sydney Film Festival: Ana, mon amour


Ana, mon amour is about a turbulent relationship between Toma and Ana over a decade. And the movie felt like it would run for the 87,600 hours that make up a decade.

The Romanian film, by director Călin Peter Netzer, a follow up to his 2013 Golden Bear winner Child’s Pose, was part of the Sydney FIlm Festival and examines the personal psychological torture within the seemingly “normal’ person.

The roles of Ana and Toma are played by experienced theatre actors Diana Cavallioti and Mircea Postelnic and the film is based on the book, Luminita, mon amour by the film’s co-screenwriter Cezar Paul-Badescu.

The film is a story of codependency, with characters wracked by a crippling of their own identity, down to bit players including the comedic priest who hears confession gripped by the effects of altar wine.

The film jumps back and forth through time, aided by haircuts to show aging – but it’s confusing –  beginning when the two meet at university while studying literature and discussing Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil.

The relationship begins as do their roles: Ana has an anxiety attack and Toma becomes her saviour/carer. As codependency dictates, there is chemistry at the start of the relationship that bleeds out into pain and animosity, perhaps even hatred as time and the movie drags on.

“You are the most horrible person I have ever met. No god, no morals, no soul. Nothing,” one of them yells at the other (you’ll have to see the movie to discover which).

Love becomes addiction and a vehicle for destruction, with both living outside each other, looking for validation, trapped in the madness of codependency.

The film is given context by Toma’s psychoanalytical session, with Freudian therapist played by Adrian Titieni. Is Freudian therapy big in Romania?

It was a drab, very realistic experience of the often colourless and confined world of the movie but the horrible normality of dysfunction is mostly boring.

Maybe I can’t handle reality or do not have the stomach for a movie of this pace but the second half stretched fatally beyond the horizon of my attention.

The acting is strong and there is also graphic sex that includes ejeculation.

The “meeting the family” moments are some of the best of the film with their line-up of caricature parents parading their particular form of  grotesqueness. But the highlight for me is one of the few humorous points in the film when Toma goes to confession after years away from the church and spills it to the priest Adrian played by Vlad Ivanov.

Ivanov gives more worldly wisdom and acceptance than I have ever heard from the mouth of a priest and sagely tells Toma: “Choosing a wife is harder than any doctoral thesis.”

At its best, the movie shows how behaviours and beliefs set in the youth, developed within unhealthy families, create mental pathways – myelinated neurons – that make escape from that “destiny” nearly impossible.

For Ana it is the pervy stepfather who sleeps next to her and bathes her until age 14; for Toma it is an aggressive, controlling father and an enabling  mother who stayed in the marriage.

This film explores set roles in dysfunctional families and the toxicity of co-dependency.

I didn’t care about either of the lead characters- for me their neurosis wasn’t the turnoff, it was the endlessness and blandness of their dilemma.

I wanted them to sort out their shit so we could all move on; me out of the cinema.

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