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Anna M

 
 
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Anna M
cast: Isabelle Carre, Gilbert Melki, Anne Consigny, Genevieve Mnich, and Gaelle Bona

director: Michel Spinosa

101 minutes (15) 2007
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Metrodome DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
The theme of extremes of obsession is in fear of becoming a cliché� in the European cinema, but Michel Spinosa's Anna M doesn't announce any significant tiring of the topic just as yet. Its eponymous protagonist (Isabelle Carre) suffers from erotomania, an affliction used to tricksy effect previously in He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, though Anna M favours against that film's dark quirkiness, instead taking its tonal cues from more downbeat fare like Michael Haneke's The Piano Teacher, Hans Christian Schmid's Requiem and, in the penultimate chapter, Polanski's Repulsion (down to the detail of Anna hiding under the bed).

The film opens with Anna M, a seemingly healthy and amiable member of society at work as a book restorer in the Biblioteque Nationale, her colleagues dependent on her expertise and good-natured assistance when they blunder. Ready for home and alone in the circular reading room she collapses in a faint and recovers consciousness a changed person. The incident is captured in a necessary and serendipitously effective long shot to prove that no one else has witnessed her collapse. Taking the dog for a walk, she tethers the animal to a post and walks out in front of speeding car. Her doctor for the mending of her broken leg is Dr Zanevsky (Gilbert Melki) who will become the target of Anna's fixation and at the moment he should be relenting his care with a final few appointments she steps up her intentions towards him. The film chapters the stages of her obsession, as Anna interprets messages where they aren't, conveniently disregarding evidence of his true disinterest in her and proof of attentions elsewhere. Information on Zanevsky is trickled in and his marital status introduced when superbly judged to have its greatest effect. The reveal of a wife also serves as the springboard to the next serious level of the obsession.

It is Zanevsky's misfortune that he is spotted by Anna M in a bookshop flicking a copy of the The Song Of Songs. "Je suis a mon bien-amie, et lui aussi, c'est vers moi quil soupire," is the driven belief of the book, and the book opens on the line. Discovering there is a wife, Anna M is unfazed, purporting that the woman simply 'cannot exist' for him. She lays the blame for her reactions and the 'upheavals' on the ungracious beloved, excusing herself of any responsibility for the torment to follow and lives affected. Zanevsky hides nothing from his wife and includes her in his attempts to address the intrusion on their contented family life. They mistakenly try to apply logic to solving the problem, though Anna, who mentally dodges any reasoning that he might attempt, underwrites logic.

When Zanevsky contacts the police they accuse him of playing away with the girl and bringing it on himself. When Anna M reverses a borrowed van into Zanevsky's car, witnesses assume her following assault on Zanevsky to be defensive, while Zanevsky's manhandling of her is viewed as evidence of assault. Anna M moves into more worrying territory as Anna M poses as a children's nursemaid for a single father with two young girls on the floor above the Zanevsky's. The outcome of this is unsettling as she behaves recklessly, threatening the safety of the girls, who are at first adoring of their young carer, then increasingly terrified of her. The older of the little girls is forward enough to phone her father at the point of necessity but is caught in the act, Anna M manhandling the spirited child horribly while trying to convince the concerned father that all is well.

The film closes with Anna M institutionalised and pregnant, feigning normal behaviour, released and spiralling quickly back into a hellish state. Simple but effective distortion of the image and impossible additional movement under the bed-sheets terrifies her and she is inexplicably rescued by a real rare friend, though this and the subsequent pastoral escape would appear to be an inner fantasy, an imaginary fugue, to which she has been finally lost. A religious painting hung on the wall of a remote church is recognisable as a favourite image held at home in her room, stolen from a rare and precious book at work.

An impressive central performance from Isabelle Carre, Anna M cannot be outrightly abhorred for a condition she has no control over, though clearly she exhibits the ability to separate the facts when need be. The conniving nature can, on the downside, easily present Anna M as a villain to those who do not have first hand experience of neurotic and depressive disorders. The futility of trying to reason with these disorders is well presented, the sufferer sidestepping any change of tactic and violently responding when cornered with sensible argument. It is a scary world in which everyone is a victim.
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