Monday, July 17, 2017

Fantasia 2017--Animals--Greg Zglinski

Marital strife creates psychotic confusions in Greg Zglinski's Animals/Tiere (2017)
Fantasia rocked my world yesterday with its first of two screenings of Greg Zglinski's Animals (2017), a powerful and disturbing German film that ups the WTF quotient in terms of narrative twists and turns, all through a female character's troubled narration.  I haven't felt this thrilled and pumped about a German film since Fantasia's screening of Goodnight Mommy in 2015.  While I was disappointed that the director wasn't there to talk about his film, it was probably for the best, because I could just imagine some of the questions posed during the Q & A.  What exactly happened during the car accident?  How does Anna's novel relate to the film's events?  What is going on in the locked room in both apartments (a locked room--paging Freud)?  What's up with the suicidal animals (it starts with a goldfish)?  In my estimation, each and every one of these questions only triggers new ones, producing such a myriad of cinematic pleasures, I'm grinning wildly while I write this review.

Anna's combination of paranoia and ennui anchors the film
Ostensibly, the film follows Anna (Birgit Minichmayr), a children's book author embarking on her first grown up novel while vacationing for 6 months with her husband, Nick (Philipp Hochmair), a chef and serial flirt who she believes is undoubtedly cheating on her.  They rent their apartment out to a rather untrustworthy house-sitter named Mischa (Mona Petri) who breaks every rule they give her, and looks strikingly like the woman who lives on the third floor, Andrea (Mona Petri as well), and the woman at the ice cream shop in Vevey (Mona Petri yet again!)  In fact, the doppelgangers here fly fast and furious, and space and time lose all their boundaries.

Chef Nick decides to butcher the sheep he hit with a car (nice that they shaved it first)
Things go decidedly pear-shaped when Anna and Nick, en route to their house in Switzerland, hit a sheep, landing Anna in the hospital with another head injury (she had bashed her head tripping over a skateboard prior to their journey).  All this head trauma makes Anna not only rather unreliable, but forces her to question what is real and what is not at every turn.  Both Anna and Nick have very weird dreams about being killed by the other, and one cannot tell where dream begins and reality ends, or who is actually dreaming, and who is awake, and when.  This type of confusion leads to some pretty darkly humorous moments, with a creepy-looking talking black cat tying the different worlds together. Such FUN!

Mischa wants to find out what's behind the door
Head injuries abound, as Mischa seems to have her own series of mishaps, falling and injuring herself numerous times.  She encounters Andrea's ex, who insists that she is Andrea (hello, same actress), and there's a suicide that happens, or doesn't, and it's not certain when exactly.  Zglinski deliberately dresses Anna and Mischa in similar clothes, in mirrored spaces, experiencing similarly injuries--all to tie the two characters, and both their confusion and curiosity, tightly together.  Then, there's Andrea, who lives on the third floor, or not, and is Anna's alter ego, or not.  The crazy gets upped to eleven when Anna reads her novel (on which she cannot remember working) and it contains characters named Anna, Nick, and Mischa.  What???

Is Nick more than a catalyst for Anna's fantasies/nightmares?
Unsurprisingly, I zeroed in on Anna's rich and confused interior life, and how both her apartment in Germany (traversed primarily by Mischa) and her house in Switzerland, possess mysterious doors behind which lies...???  The film's mysteries keep one constantly guessing.  That's why I'm not sure how to read Nick's character.  Is he just the cheating catalyst for Anna's paranoia, or has he slipped into this film's alternate dimension/timeloop/marital hellhole along with Anna, after the accident?  Or is he really just a fictional character in Anna's twisted novel?  I have very few answers in this first time viewing, and hope beyond hopes that the film gets a strong distributor so that I can watch it again, numerous times, very, very soon.  A masterpiece, but I guess I shouldn't expect anything less from Fantasia.