-MONTHLY FILM & TV REVIEW-
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
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.