Villa Amalia

Villa Amalia


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Beginning at a point most films would build up to, Benoît Jacquot wastes no time in introducing us to concert pianist Ann (Isabelle Huppert), plunging us into a single moment of revelation that will upturn her life - as she witnesses her partner of 15 years kissing another woman and, in a belief-straining coincidence, meets a long-forgotten childhood friend at virtually the same time. Everything about these events suggests intrigue, from the thriller-style music employed to the sense of dislocation generated by thrusting us into the middle of her life just as she in turn experiences the horror of revelation coupled with an altogether more benign emotion of recollection.

The impact of this two minutes is immense, throwing her into a state of flux which will lead her to dismantle her life - and, to a large extent even her identity - to go in search of something, possibly anything, that is different.

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Jacquot's film is an exploration of idenity and isolation - how both are constructed and changed. Initial scenes contrast Ann's 'loneliness in a crowd' - as we see that despite having friends and family they all have a curious emotional distance from her - with her old friend Georges' (Jean-Hugues Anglade) more enforced isolation, brought about by both the death of his mother and his best friend.

"Be my only friend," pleads Ann, as she looks to him to provide a distant achor point, while she embarks on an adventure of self-discovery that will take her to Italy and into the arms of another. It's an emotional journey that is not fully fleshed out in narrative terms. The second part of Jacquot's film, sees Ann and his camera foresake the more clinically coloured, boxed in confines of her old life and embrace the strong Meditarranean palette and open spaces of fresher prospects along the Italian shoreline.

Jacquot's film does not pander to the young or inexperienced and requires the viewer to read between the lines. He dips in and out of incidents in Ann's life, indicating that this is not the first time she has undergone a 'reinvention', and while this is emotionally intriguing there remains an overwhelming sense of dislocation. This journey of self-discovery has a dreamy attraction - fueled by a solid performance from Huppert as the oddly detached woman at its heart - but although it maintains an emotional thrum throughout, the vagueness of story, motivations or any sense of what really makes Ann tick will prove frustrating for many.

Reviewed on: 23 Jul 2010
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A woman embarks on a journey of self-discovery.
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Director: Benoît Jacquot

Writer: Benoît Jacquot, Julien Boivent, Pascal Quignard

Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Xavier Beauvois, Maya Sansa, Clara Bindi, Viviana Aliberti, Michelle Marquais, Peter Arens, Ignazio Oliva, Jean-Pierre Gos, Jean-Michel Portal, Maurice Bernart, Jean Coulon, Massato, Florence d'Azémar

Year: 2009

Runtime: 94 minutes

Country: France, Switzerland


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