Anamorph Movie Review

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With a title as mysterious as this surrealistically tinged psychological crime thriller, Anamorph takes the notion of art and the warped imagination to homicidal extremes. Weirdly positioning serial killing as a depraved form of creative expression (through seeming artistically-driven destruction) and the victims as signature works of art, however psychotic that may sound as a fantasy in its own right, Anamorph does have the odd effect of simultaneous repulsion and fascination.

You might say the intent is to take the madness of Van Gogh’s severed ear to another level, inflicted against one’s fellow humans. In any case, move over, all those theories about messed up childhoods and psychological life trauma when it comes to the compulsive appetite for murder. This more than peculiar policier is decidedly less into bad genes or upbringing than a wild and weird urge for interior decorating at the crime scene.

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As far as the title Anamorph is concerned, if you’ve ever encountered those brain teaser drawings of human subjects that turn into completely different shapes and figures when seen from another angle, then you’ve been there, done that. Incidentally, it’s a concept originating and prized in the field of Gestalt psychology, and one which signifies multiple potential interpretations of the same observed experience. Hence, the notion embodied in another film, Rashomon.

The detective in question, both transfixed and driven over the deep end down the proverbial rabbit hole by these various concepts, is Stan Aubray (Willem Dafoe). He’s an uptight loner, NYPD detective, profiler and lecturer on crime who’s still in a psychological funk five years after solving a gruesome series of homicides known as The Uncle Eddie Murders.

Detective Aubray is a strange breed of cop, to say the least, as he gushes over snapshots of crime scenes like museum displays, referring to them as the ritual murderer’s work of art, conversation piece, or ‘aesthetic, if you will,’ that he’s left behind. Whether Aubray is really an art connoisseur who missed his calling or someone who’s simply lost his marbles owing to an occupational hazard, the charged atmosphere gleaned from both the unique magical realism of the visuals, however deranged, and Dafoe’s hypnotic performance as a man nearly as flipped out in his own way as the suspect he is hopelessly obsessed with, are simply phenomenal.

Anamorph writer/director H.S. Miller has confessed to the influences of Asian horror movies, the stylistically provocative US films of the 1970s, and the convergence of psychology, history and compulsions of the artistic variety. Miller’s next project is Poe And The Resurrectionist, pass the sedatives please.

IFC Films

Rated R

3 1/2 stars

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.