French writer/director Michel Spinosa’s Anna M is a psychological thriller which blends the clinical and the mystical in its portrait of a female erotomaniac. A rare book restorer at Paris’s Bibliotheque Nationale, who still lives with her mother, the shy Anna (Isabelle Carre), encounters Dr Zanevsky (Gilbert Melki) after her botched suicide attempt. Mistaking his professional concern for proof of his romantic desires towards her, she is soon bombarding this happily married man with phone calls, letters and gifts, hanging around outside his apartment, and stalking his wife (Anne Consigny).
The title has echoes of one of Freud’s famous hysterics whose pseudonym was ‘Anna O’, and Spinosa splits up the narrative into four sections, each named after a stage in his heroine’s pathological condition: ‘illumination’, ‘hope’, ‘disappointment’ and ‘hatred’. Interestingly the film draws parallels between religious and sexual devotion: Anna constantly interprets comments, voices and gestures as ‘signs’, and a painting by the biblically-inspired 17th century Spanish artist Zurbaran connects her and Zanevsky’s lives.
The mise-en-scene amplifies Anna’s feelings of isolation and her experiences of a different reality, with the dimensions of both the hospital courtyards and the national library dwarfing her slender figure. Admittedly, in the second half, Spinosa’s plotting depends on some improbable contrivances, yet throughout Carre gives an impressive performance, and the way she combines her character’s hesitant demeanour and inner conviction is reminiscent of a younger Isabelle Huppert.
GFT, Glasgow, Fri 16–Thu 22 Nov.