*Note* This interview first appeared in print in Scream horror magazine in 2012.*
Amer positions itself as a cool and super-stylish homage to the 1970s Italian giallo subgenre made famous by such film-makers as Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Mario Bava and Umberto Lenzi. The movie depicts the life of a woman in three important stages from early childhood fears, sexual awakening and her death at the hand of a sadistic killer. Bruno Forzani and Hélène Cattet’s film weaves dream logic, expressionist cinematography and sound design, as well as exploring what made giallo so memorable and iconic.
How did you develop the narrative for Amer?
Forzani: The main subject of the film was discovery of the body and desire. For us the best way to talk about desire was through the giallo movie using the iconography and subtext of that. So we wrote our story around those ideas.
Were there any specific films you took inspiration from or copied?
Forzani: Yes, we have some. One in particular is Profondo Rosso (dir: Dario Argento).
Cattet: We also took inspiration from A Lizard in A Woman’s Skin (dir: Lucio Fulci).
Forzani: For the colours, like the external shots in the second part, it is movies like Seven Blood-Stained Orchids (dir: Umberto Lenzi).
What’s the audience reaction been to the film?
Forzani: It depends. People who know giallo movies are the ones who wanted to see Profondo Rosso 2 and will be disappointed. The others have seen what we’ve done with giallo and have enjoyed the approach. As I always say: ‘you’ll either love it or hate it’.
So the people who don’t like it have you said given any specific criticism?
Forzani: They say it’s just a copy of giallo or they say it’s not a giallo! [laughs].
Where did the idea come to split the film into three distinct parts?
Cattet: I love the short film format and I love anthology movies. We wrote the teenage part first and we wrote it for a short film but didn’t want to make short films anymore. We couldn’t extend the middle part to one hour and a half so we thought about the childhood of the character and her adulthood, too.
Where was Amer filmed?
Forzani: On the French Riviera at the border between Italy and France.
Was it a difficult shoot?
Cattet: Yes. It was hard work but the place was nice! It was really, really good. We didn’t have a lot of money so did lots of preparation so when we shot the film it was like giving birth.
How does your relationship work on set?
Cattet: We do everything together and we don’t separate the work. It is important to have the preparation done before the shooting because we have to be on the same wavelength with everything. We fight a lot during preparation and then during the shoot it is okay [laughs].
Which one of you gets to shout ‘action’ before a scene?
Cattet: He says action and I say cut!
The soundtrack is made up of borrowed scores from giallo films. How did you decide what to use?
Cattet: The music chose us. We have a lot of soundtracks and we’re always listening to them at home. We write at home so never listen to the radio only soundtracks from movies. We’d begin to write a sequence and think ‘this music would be perfect’. We wanted to re-use the music in a new context.
Forzani: I remember before we shot the film we listened to the music with a friend and they said we couldn’t use it because it was too sounded too kitsch.
The editing is very distinct and creates a dreamlike atmosphere. Can you talk about that?
Forzani: We wanted to play with close-ups of the eyes. That’s what I like when I watch some Dario Argento movies, especially, the murder scenes. He explodes the space. That was the approach we wanted for the whole movie not just the murder scene!
Did it take a long time to cut?
Forzani: It took ten weeks. We used pre-visualisation to test the shots and editing so we already an idea for the film … it was like a map.
The visuals of the film are often spectacular. Was it hard to re-create that distinct giallo look?
Forzani: No it wasn’t that difficult. The most difficult part was the second part of the movie because we’d never shot in exterior locations before. To do the stuff with primary colours, it was okay for us.
Cattet: We played a lot with colours since our short films and we worked on Amer with the same crew so we were used to working together.
So what are you working on next. Will it be another giallo film?
Forzani: We hope.
Cattet: We are writing a diptych with Amer. So this time we want to approach a giallo from a male point-of-view.
Forzani: We would like to do a film that uses parts of the giallo universe we haven’t explored yet. We would like to shoot in Brussels, so not Mediterranean this time.
Do you have a title for this new giallo project?
Forzani: Yes. It is 'The Strange Colour Of Your Body’s Tears'.
That’s a great title. Are you hoping to make it next year?
Forzani: Next year. We’re finishing the writing and after that lots of preparation and we’ll have to see if we get the money.
When is Amer released in the UK?
Forzani: I think the Blu-ray and the DVD is released in January 2011 and maybe they’ll be a small cinema release, too. We don’t know.
Amer should definitely be seen on the big screen.
Cattet: Thank you. We made the film for the cinema so that would be great.
Amer - review by Anton Bitel
The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears Interview, Grolsch Film Works