Anamorph Review

The Film

Cinema is a pretty poor guide for real life. Nowhere is this more true than in the field of serial killer movies. For the purposes of entertainment and "heightened reality", cinema presents these particular villains as evil geniuses with infinite IQs and the best in taste and etiquette. Murder is the serial killer's mode of expression in cinema, and their few onscreen words are always built up to through elaborate preparation and design in the mayhem they create. In real life, serial killers are rare and more likely to be the kind of people who keep mum's dessicated corpse in the attic and think less like chess grandmasters than seriously incompetent social beings.

Still, we all kinda live with the nonsensical grand plans of films like Se7en because the dimly lit cinematography and the enjoyable actors compensate for that. It is after all just a film. Anamorph can be directly compared with that film with two unlikely partners paired to solve inspired killings in the dimmest of lights and with a rush to protect the innocents as the hunted turns the tables on the hunters. Like Se7en, the film is shot in a way to present itself as the director's own masterpiece of murder, and like Se7en we get great actors giving the project much needed critical weight.

I'm not a fan of the Fincher. I have always thought that Se7en was basically a fine piece of writing and cinematography where the ensemble acting made up for Brad Pitt's dreadful emoting and Fincher's ability to raise the prosaic and the offensive to the level of pseudo-profound. For me, the star was Andrew Kevin Walker's script which outperformed hoary old ideas such as the retiring detective paired with a young partner, and became a tale of how idealists are destroyed by the world. Anamorph's script was co-written by its director and it offers no such compensation for the viewer wishing for real depth.
For Anamorph's insight into this genre is that perspective changes everything. That the truth is dependent on where you are standing and how you look at something. That one man's Francis Bacon knock-off is a meaningful comment on the guilt we all carry with us. The idea though remains external to the method of this piece with characters expected to be created by the actors alone rather than in partnership with the script and director, and authorial tone is stuck in the same facile truth of the killer - all tricksy image and no emotional insight.

Dafoe is, of course, always interesting. He makes his detective a sum of ticks and compulsions which hide vulnerabilities and addictions - a kind of intense humour-free riff on Monk. He is the only character really explored here and, when summed up, Dafoe's dectective is an obsessive with extreme eyebrows and furrowed frowns. The supporting cast chiefly exist to throw about some unconvincing doubt about the killer's identity and this wastes the wonderful Peter Stormare. The less said about Scott Speedman's performance as young cop with beard the better.

That the central idea of anamorphosis is an intriguing one to put into such a thriller I can't deny, and some of the final act, as this notion is explored, works well. Still the complete non-attempt to offer any motive or identity for Dafoe's quarry doesn't leave any way to look at this film in retrospect when surely the point of the title is that there should be at least two vistas offered. All that is presented as solution is the far from pretty images and a desire to punish. This leaves the film seeming somewhat facile rather than profoundly open to interpretation.
If this review was a movie then I suppose the director would now seek me out and use my liver to re-create The Raft of the Medusa, and I sincerely hope that Henry Miller doesn't. Miller is merely the latest to come to a genre trying to make his name when actually it is coming to the end of its natural life. Where people like Fincher, Mann, and Demme left their calling cards with psycho thrillers we now get repetition and lack of novelty. The art of writing such thrillers has become seriously devalued and the attempts to create shock have become desperate and cheap.

After watching Anamorph, I wish to announce that the serial killer movie passed away peacefully in its sleep. Efforts were made to revive it but highly experienced actors and skilled technicians were powerless to resuscitate it.

Transfer and Sound

It's pretty dark in here as the low light, high contrast look is wheeled out again to give mood. I guess that the shadows of the dark are not meant to be too subtle and the transfer is intentionally dim accordingly. The image is pleasing and not overprocessed with natural contours and a little in the way of grain. Colours are restrained and everything has a bluish hue, the overall look is sharp but with not a great deal of detail due largely to the low level of light.
There are two audio tracks with the 5.1 offering decent atmosphere and spatial definition as well as twice the bitrate of the stereo track. There's little in the way of distortion or source problems, but these options are functional rather than excellent. The English subs are perfectly fine and removable too

Discs and Special Features

Well, there's a few trailers as the disc starts for Rec and The Children but that's it in terms of extras. The disc has a pretty perfunctory choice of scene select and setup options and this is a two layer disc encoded for region two.


This is far from a bad film and the idea at its core will at least repay a rental if not an outright purchase. The US DVD is similarly bare bones so if you are a fan and don't own the film already I suppose this release is just as good an option.

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