08th Oct2020

Grimmfest 2020: ‘Anonymous Animals’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Thierry Marcos, Aurélien Chilarski, Emilien Lavaut | Written and Directed by Baptiste Rouveure

I do like the intrigue and bewilderment that comes with watching experimental cinema, and so it is easy to become swept up in ideas that are obscure or based around metaphor. Baptiste Rouveure (And The Winner Is) writes and directs this low-budget picture that is without dialogue but instead focuses on haunting, oft disturbing and regularly weird vignettes related to the balance of power between mankind and animals, and that balance being stuck in reverse.

The clear message aside, this is a very eccentric film, taking a route that attempts to alter the perception of the viewer in these eerie, haunting sequences. Taking the abuse of animals and turning it against the human, Anonymous Animals attempts to question the atrocities of mankind as well as our place in society, but it doesn’t always quite work. There’s a level of irregularity and disaffection here, and the build of the film, though full of that peculiar intensity, never truly hits a solid and meaningful culmination. It has a lot it wants to say but perhaps struggles to say it all. Whether that is due to the sheer vacancy of dialogue, or the experimental nature it rides, I’m not sure, but there is certainly something missing here that could have taken the film, the ideas it holds and the meaning behind what Rouveure wanted to say, to another level.

The foggy and vague plot makes for a somewhat frustrating experience at times, but make no mistake about it, this is a slice of experimental cinema that unapologetically tells you what’s in its head. The film looks great, and the eye for detail and framing from Rouveure is impeccable. The performances, too, from the slim cast, are effectively curious. There is definitely an audience for this, and those with an attraction or curiosity for experimental films may find something remarkable about this. I was grossed out a little, slightly disturbed, confused and at times left thinking, which surely is the main reason that projects like this are created. The viewer is not given a hand to hold, nor a comfortable narrative to see them through, but instead a series of images and ideas that play with your own notions. Anonymous Animals is interesting, without a doubt, but a hard one to necessarily recommend because of just how open-ended, loose and indeterminate it is.

However I slice and dice my experience here, however, the fact remains that this is a horror movie. There’s gore, there are scenes of blood and woe, and the overall tone feels like horror. It’s just encapsulated in something different, and so it’s hard to call it anything other than “experimental”. Certainly, though, Anonymous Animals is something I found compelling for the hour it lasted. Perhaps you will too.

**½  2.5/5

Anonymous Animals screened on October 7th 2020 as part of Grimmfest 2020


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