The advertising material played before the start of Ana Mon Amour said Romania couldn’t make bad movies. Although tongue in cheek, it shows the confidence of the Romanian New Wave that’s enjoyed a sustainable wind for some time now.Ana Mon Amour is one of the latest offerings of this movement – and the film’s director Calin Peter Netzer, who won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival for his movie Child Posein 2013, has long become a household name in Romania.
Ana Mon Amourunfolds as the main character,Toma,tells the story of his failed relationship on a Freudian psychoanalytic couch. Onestory leads to another as free associations replace a chronological narrative. There’s no beginning and no end but a ‘post mortem’ analysis and journey of self-discovery. Toma meets Ana at University. They share an interest in psychoanalysis and philosophy. Soon,their relationship becomes all-absorbing and consuming. Ana tells Toma abouther anxiety and depression and he’s understanding and supportive. A visit to Ana’s parents in the countryside reveals a family frayed by prejudices and disconnected from their daughter’s life and aspirations. Ana’s problematic relationship with her adoptive father and the death of her biological one might have something to do with her panic attacks. Toma’s family, although from a higher social status, are no less dysfunctional. Toma’s fatherterrorizeshis family with controlling paranoia. Intolerance and discrimination surface when his parents face the prospect of their son’s relationship with a girl with mental problems from the North.
The main characters’ backgroundsaccountfor the future dynamic of their relationship. Ana soon becomes dependent on Toma who fully assumes the role of controlling boyfriend and carer,replicating his father’s behaviour. Falling pregnant, Ana rarely leaves the house and allows Toma to speak in her name. Without families to turn to, the young couple lookfor support in church. But the family unit is a symptom of society’s ills… A priest, superbly played by Vlad Ivanov, ranksToma’s worst sinto behis expensive smoking habit. Society fails them. This is when psychoanalysis comes in. Ana starts attending regular therapy sessions, which she later discusses with Toma. Together, they embark on a journey that unexpectedly has different outcomes for each of them. It’s at this point that Toma recognizes his own failings and decides to take up where Ana left off…
The movie’s based on an autobiographical book, Luminita, mon amour by Cezar Paul Badescu (who also collaborated on the script),which the director had a personal affinity with because of its focus on psychoanalysis as atool of empowerment. A believer in the age-old dictum ‘know thyself’, Netzer sees psychoanalysis as an anchor in a world that exploits the vulnerability of disconnected selves.
Netzer craftily weaves in a stark realism that grounds the disparate narrative. Some of the scenes are quite shocking: When Ana accidentally overmedicates, Toma’s handling of her limp, bleeding body is not for the faint-hearted–but the scene reallybrings home thedespair of the situation. The sex scenes couldn’t beanymore explicit, and although their unceremonious framing exposes sex as a fundamentally human and an inextricable part of life, the movie’s daring breaking of taboos has attracted the bells and whistles of publicity.This, though, is perfectly acceptable given that the weight of the movie as a whole providesa strong counterbalance to such explicit scenes.
Ana, Mon Amourisn’t all sex and gloom, though – quite the opposite. Humour and a fine use of spoken language make the story familiar and immediate. The two actors carry the movie effortlessly. Ana, played by Diana Cavallioti,an actress with an impressive career behind her despite her young age, is a mistress of subtlety and nuance. Her ability to convey the gradual changes of self-discovery and to metamorphosize before our very eyes raises above the supporting role of her character. Toma, played by Mircea Postelnicu, is affable and endearing as he’s trying to come to terms with the fact that his apparent strength and control of Ana is nothing but chronic vulnerability. Their efforts really make Ana, Mon Amour a good story with a powerful message that resonates across ages and borders.