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Berlinale: Helmer Netzer Returns to Festival Full of ‘Amour’

Romanian helmer-writer Călin Peter Netzer, a 2013 Golden Bear-winner for “Child’s Pose,” returns to the Berlinale competition this year with a very different tale of family dysfunction in “Ana, Mon Amour.” Based on the notable novel “Luminiţa, Mon Amour” by Cezar Paul Badescu, Netzer’s fourth feature tells the story of a young couple, Toma and Ana, and how Ana’s mental illness challenges and shapes their relationship.

Netzer had long wanted to make a film about co-dependent lovers. He read the book in 2010 while working on “Child’s Pose” and later called the author to ask him to co-write a script based on the novel.

“It was important to me to be objective in telling the story, so I decided to let the character tell the story, to make him be the one who understands that his love story was also a story about codependency. So, we decided to write it in a non-chronological way with forward time lapses and flashbacks, based on the main character’s psychoanalysis,” says Netzer.

Writing the script took several years. After completing several drafts with Badescu, Netzer brought in a third writer, Iulia Lumanare. With her, he worked on psychoanalytical storytelling based on associations; for example, on where every piece of puzzle belonged in Toma’s memory in order for him to get to the point of understanding his role in what happened. Netzer notes, “Cezar understood from the beginning that his book was only the starting point and that the final script is not a typical adaptation of the book. The book remained the inspiration, but the story I am telling has a different understanding of things, even though the events are the same. He accepted that the book is his point of view and the film is mine.”

The film offers a way into Toma’s inner world. Not in the abstract, poetical sense of it, but actually, because the character re-lives his past; the past that made him the way he is now. Netzer explains, “It is psychoanalytical because the analysis is happening in real time, it is not explained with words, it is not narrated, it is re-lived by the character, giving the spectator the chance to live it with him.”

Shooting with two cameras simultaneously on such an intimate, revealing story full of sex and transgression required a lengthy pre-production period. The two main actors, Mircea Postelnicu and Diana Cavalioti, even had a personal psychoanalysis to understand the process and the characters they had to interpret. Finding the right cast was critical.

Netzer recalls, “Because I needed very young actors for very difficult roles. I think I saw every actor between 20-30 years in Romania.” The importance of rehearsals was crucial, as was working on the script for so long and so intensely. Netzer stresses, “I couldn’t imagine having to shoot any of the scenes with indications given [only] on set. We are diverse people, with a diverse understanding of words. I needed to make sure that the actors and I speak the same ‘language.’”

“Ana, Mon Amour” marks Netzer’s second collaboration with his “Child’s Pose” DP Andrei Butica and editor-sound designer Dana Bunescu. He says, “I feel very secure with both of them. They are my team, and I trust not just their experience, but also their instincts. They were involved from the start. Even before the script was ready.” With Butica, he watched other movies and discussed what he wanted before the shooting started. Meanwhile, Bunescu usually makes the first cut of a scene herself. “It is the starting point I need, just like in a conversation, where you need another point of view in order to make it a conversation,’’ notes Netzer. “That helps a lot, especially when you have tons of material.”

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