December 18, 2007
Chaotic Ana, 2007
Julio Medem's Chaotic Ana is an unclassifiable concoction, at once deeply personal and untenably ambitious, alternating between creating a strong statement and indulging in fanciful whimsy. Presented in eleven chapters that count down towards zero in the referential pattern of hypnotic regression, the bohemian artist, Ana (Manuela Vellés), not surprisingly, is first shown in a state of trance on the dance floor of an Ibiza nightclub. Ana's seeming perpetual state of waking dream is subsequently reflected in the images of her sheltered life with her father, Klaus (Matthias Habich), having lived an idyllic existence in a cave overlooking the coast throughout her youth until Justine (Charlotte Rampling), a patron of the arts from Paris, invites her to stay at an artist workshop where, for a few years, she can work in complete creative freedom. Finding immediate community with the workshop's eclectic residents, in particular, a video artist named Linda (Bebe), Ana immediately falls for the subject of Linda's latest installation, an enigmatic, resident artist named Saïd (Nicolas Cazalé). Drawing inspiration from his life in exile, Saïd's primitivist composition creates a violent reaction within Ana's subconscious. Suspecting that Ans's blackout is a psychological fugue that is connected to the resurfacing of traumas suffered during her past lives, Justine and Linda enlist the aid of an American hypnotist, Michael (Asier Newman) who gradually unravels the centuries of cross-cultural testimonies buried within Ana's subconscious, told by young women whose lives were all tragically cut short by the age of 22, that would bear witness to the hidden histories of inhumanity, violence, and oppression. Part loving tribute to his sister, Ana Medem, whose artwork is featured in the film (and who, as the postscript reveals, "left" at the age of 22), and part contemporary indictment of masculine aggression (and in particular, American aggression) that has led to a legacy of warfare, occupation, terrorism, and subjugation, Medem's fractured tale proves to be an unstable alchemy where moments of sobering reflection on the repercussions of a chronically shortsighted US policy are supplanted by two-dimensional caricatures that constantly shift the tone of the film from unflinching realism to bawdy farce (an awkward juxtaposition that proves especially flawed during a pivotal encounter at a Navajo bar, where Medem's trenchant parallel illustration of dispossession and institutional segregation between the Native American reservations in the US and the refugee camps of displaced Saharans in the Middle East - and by extension, the Iraqi occupation that has also resulted in geographic factionalism along ethnic and tribal lines - is undermined by the facile sight gag of a patron's inebriated uncoordination).