A Freudian Kaleidoscope Of Macabre Sexuality

A Freudian Kaleidoscope Of Macabre Sexuality

Static Mass Rating: 3/5
Anchor Bay entertainment UK

Release date: January 31st 2011
Certificate (UK): 18
Running time: 87 minutes
Original language: French

Director: Helene Cattet, Bruno Forzani

Cast: Cassandra Foret, Charlotte Eugen Guibeaud, Marie Bos, Bianca Marie D’Amato, Harry Cleven, Delphine Brual, Jean-Michel Vovk, Bernard Marbaix

Amer (trans. Bitter) is, to put it one way, an erotic horror film in the Italian Giallo style. As we greet it here, the Giallo style (“yellow” in Italian, after the colour of the softbacks in which this genre first flourished) is an unhallowed orgy of German Expressionist cinema, gothic (Hammer) horror and psychological (Hitchcockian) horror, torture pornography and soft-core titillation.

But to say what it is is perhaps not very helpful. What it looks like is deranged camerawork- think The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari meets Scott Pilgrim-; reanimating grandfathers and shadowy figures stalking eerie corridors; strange objects of mysterious purport, ambiguous threatening looks and eyes wide with terror; spurting blood; and a liberal quota of sudden breasts and other fleshy disclosures. It would perhaps suffice to say that Quentin Tarantino rated this in his top twenty films of 2010.


Amer witnesses three episodes in the life of Ana. The first is a psychologically momentous night from her childhood, during which she steals a locket out of the embalmed fingers of her recently deceased grandfather, sees her parents having sex and is chased through the darkened passages of her coastal château by a veiled woman in black. There are all sorts of weirdnesses and one wonders as to where reality stops and where childish impressions and fantasies begin. As with the later chapters, though most fruitfully in the second, we are invited to play a game of spot the psychoanalytic symbolism. There is for example a hilariously theoretical moment when Ana’s eye (eye/“I”- Oh la la!) appears to shatter like glass in a mirror.


Next, we are brought to Ana’s adolescence by means of a symbolically hyperactive segue (an insect crawling out of Ana’s bellybutton, if you’re asking). This episode relates a dreamlike afternoon excursion to the nearby village with her sexually parading mother.

In the jaundiced heat of the Southern French Summer, precocious Ana awakens to the lascivious gaze of passing men, inciting it, curious about her new powers. She contends with her mother for the attention of a greasy man in a red car, toys with a pubescent schoolboy mesmerised by her body, and finds a gang of young bikers to whom she is hypnotically drawn. In a strange silent ritual of sexual beckoning and approaching capitulation, she paces slowly towards them, shafts (ahem) of light falling on her body from sunlight reflected in the machines they sit astride, before her mother intervenes and jealously chastises her for this metaphorical wickedness.


Throughout this section the camera is a voyeur, intensely and shamelessly leering at Ana. It presses up against her pulse and watches beads of sweat fall from her temples. On several occasions it literally tries to peer up her skirt.

In the third and strangest chapter, a woman who appears to be Ana ten or twenty years later takes a sexually pressurized taxi ride back to the castle, runs herself a bath (there is a perverse visual pun on the grammar of that sentence), and masturbates with a comb before being chased around for twenty minutes by two mysterious figures with knives.


Here Amer converts to a clear-cut (as it were) slasher movie and there is much bodily damage exhibited in forensic detail. This was by some distance my least favourite of the three episodes, and it unsettled many of the favourable impressions the previous two had made.

Both the narrative and symbolism become incoherent, though formerly rather fixed (or fixated) in their theme; and one suspects it is the demands of the pastiche that warp this otherwise deliciously Freudian kaleidoscope of macabre sexuality.

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