Next up in my Fantasia Int’l Film Festival 2017 coverage lineup is the (mostly) German language film, Animals (Tiere). Is that a long enough intro? It’ll have to do. (i have a lot of reviews to write)
Anna and Nick are an unhappily married couple. Nick is cheating – both physically and emotionally – with (at least) Andrea, the woman who lives upstairs from the couple. Anna suspects the infidelity but hasn’t had the courage to confront Nick about it. They set out to visit a country house in Switzerland to get away for a while and so Nick can research regional recipes (he’s a chef) and Anna can start writing a book (she’s a writer). En route, they hit a sheep and get into a minor wreck. After a brief visit to the hospital, their country getaway turns into a surreal nightmare of impossible timelines, nightmares, and doppelgangers..
Aminals expertly weaves realism and surrealism into a Lynchian relationship drama. Anna and Nick are believable as the couple navigating the doldrums of a stale marriage. His feelings of rejection and her fear of losing him both become understandable as their motivations and anxieties are revealed. He seeks acceptance in any (or maybe just one) willing companion. She sees their relationship as one of the tentpoles of her whole life, and loss of it would topple her whole world. Familiar themes to be sure. Where this film veers (far) into the unfamiliar is in the way their lives literally come untethered from reality as they know it. What’s going on in one scene may not be what (or when) it seems. The film is edited perfectly for this. The viewer is constantly kept reeling. It makes for a very unsettling experience. The surreal twists, turns, and switchbacks are horrific in a way that most horror fans don’t often experience. The violence and fight-or-flight tension that are staples of horror films are nowhere to be found here, but there’s no shortage of horror in questioning reality. Genre fans will find plenty to like in Animals.
The Final Cut: Animals is a superbly crafted surrealist relationship drama rooted firmly in realism. Its horrors come from the quiet panic of losing hold of reality and doubting what you’ve just seen.