I started watching this with the lass on Saturday night and she made me turn it off after 20 minutes. It’s a very odd movie and if you’re not attuned to histrionic, overwrought bombast with added weird shit then you too might turn this off after 20 minutes. Anyway, Sam Neil is a spy living in west Berlin with his wife Anna (an incredible Isabelle Adjani) and son but the relationship is on the verge of collapse. Anna also has a lover, a hilarious camp fella who seems incapable of buttoning up his shirt and is fond of kung fu. It starts off like some art house portrait of a relationship breaking down, lots of portentous dialogue and weeping in enclosed spaces. There’s a scene in a café where Neil totally loses his shit but bystanders don’t react at all. It’s like the characters are so absorbed in themselves that the outside world doesn’t exist. There’s no attempt at realism here. Everything is cranked up to the nth degree and things become increasingly violent as Neil, full of anger and impotent rage hits his wife and forces her to stay with him. Suicide attempts follow, much gnashing of teeth and sweaty close ups and things get progressively weirder as both of them succumb to some kind of madness: Neils rooted in sexual jealousy and possessiveness and Annas in something….else.
Not of all it works. Some of the acting is a bit ripe but then when you are aiming for this kind of operatic intensity you expect a few moments to make you cringe. This only adds to the weirdness though and there’s plenty of that. Dopplegangers make an appearance and the movie continues to build and build becoming increasingly more surreal and disturbed. There’s an incredible sequence in an empty Berlin subway station where Anna howls and screams like a woman, er, possessed culminating in something jaw dropping and horrific. Things get even stranger but I won’t spoil the fun.
Part horror, part psychosexual female fantasy, part psychological drama. It’s one of those unclassifiable movies. What the hell is it all about? At its most basic it’s a battle of the sexes between a domineering, abusive man and a woman longing for (sexual) liberation. Is the movies duality (not just Anna but also the city of Berlin itself) part of some kind of female gender allegory? Is the creature a metaphor for her sexual desires? What’s the significance of the cold war Berlin setting? Is the couples horrific breakup symbolic of Berlin itself? How much of this is real and how much is in Neils head? If you’re looking for answers you won’t find them but there’s enough here to get your teeth stuck into and anyone who has been through an intense break up will at least recognise some of the madness and pain contained herein. It’s not for everyone but it’s worth a watch if you want something singular and extreme. It's not the kind of thing you'd easily forget.