Toronto International Film Festival
BARCELONA, Spain -- With "Sex and Lucia" and "The Lovers of the Arctic Circle," Spanish director Julio Medem firmly established his own dreamy, winding plots, suffused with philosophical themes and spiced with a liberal dose of sex. Medem's work is not to everyone's taste, but his new film, "Chaotic Ana," is carried by imagination and the force of a strong cast. It should do well in Spanish-speaking territories and in art houses elsewhere. The film screens in the Toronto International Film Festival.
"Ana" tells the story of a young Spanish woman from age 18 to 22. Under hypnosis, she is convinced that her life is the continuation of four other women's lives, all of whom died tragically at age 22. The audience is asked to believe this is her "chaos" -- and the reason she is given to nasty turns when confronted with images that remind her of these women. If the audience does not take the film too literally and indulges Medem's idea that Ana is basically tormented by demons, then they can enjoy the action more.
Ana, played by Medem's new muse Manuela Velles, is transported from her home on the hippy Spanish island of Ibiza to an artists' commune in Madrid by mother figure Justine (Charlotte Rampling). She falls for a disturbed Arab named Said (Nicolas Cazale), then undergoes hypnosis to confront her "other women." Ana ends up on a boat bound for New York and finally travels through Arizona with her dashing hypnotist (Asier Newman).
The plot veers annoyingly from one scene to another with little explanation. But the film is far more interesting when you know that Ana was inspired by Medem's own sister, who died tragically in a traffic crash. He wrote the film as a form of tribute to her.
Indeed, the Ana character becomes a feminist hero, struggling against the aggression of man. This theme is carried off with a marvelous ending when Ana wreaks glorious revenge on U.S. political ambitions abroad, symbolized by an obnoxious American politician.
Velles, whose previous experience was one television advertisement, carries the film, showing a maturity way beyond her years. She is not daunted by a cast that includes the likes of Rampling, Matthias Habich ("The Downfall") and Lluis Homar ("Bad Education"). Velles might lack the sex appeal of a Penelope Cruz or a Paz Vega, but she offers much promise.
The real charm of this film is that it keeps the viewer guessing what strange turn it will take. Or indeed, what it is all about. It is a little long at nearly two hours but never seems plodding.
Screenwriter-director: Julio Medem
Executive producers: Simon de Santiago, Enrique Lopez Lavigne, Koldo Zuazua, Julio Medem
Director of photography: Mario Montero
Music: Jocelyn Pool
Costume designer: Estibaliz Markiegi
Co-producer: Sebastian Alvarez
Art director: Montse Sanz
Editor: Polo Aledo
Ana: Manuela Velles
Justine: Charlotte Rampling
Linda: Bebe Rebulledo
Anglo: Asier Newman
Said: Nicolas Cazale
Lucas: Raul Pena
Mister Halcon: Gerrit Graham
Klaus: Matthias Habich
Ismael: Lluis Homar
Running time -- 116 minutes
No MPAA rating