Spanish title: Anna
Country: Spain / USA / UK / France
Director: Jorge Dorado
Produced by Paul Barbeau, Jaume Collet-Serra, Maria Contreras, Tom Drumm, Miguel Angel Faura, Mercedes Gamero, Nathalie Marciano, Peter Safran and Juan Sola for The Safran Company, Antena 3 Films, Ombra Films, Roxbury, StudioCanal
Story and screenplay: Guy Holmes, Martha Holmes
Music: Lucas Vidal
Cinematographer: Oscar Faura
Editor: Jaime Valdueza
Art director: Laia Ateca
Cast: Mark Strong (John Washington), Saskia Reeves (Michelle Greene), Richard Dillane (Robert), Indira Varma (Judith Morrow), Noah Taylor (Peter), Alberto Ammann (Tom Ortega), Brian Cox (Sebastian), Molly Stein (Daniela Hooper), Marc Padró (Intruder), Frida Palsson (Anna Washington), David Chevers (Detective), Bruno Sevilla (Detective 2), Aisha Prigann (Marjorie), Taissa Farmiga (Anna Greene), Sanny van Heteren (Samantha Harris), Julio Perillán (Senator Rockford), Molly Malcolm (Maid), Simon Cohen (Ralph), Eliza Bateman (5 Year Old Anna), Clare Calbraith (Jaime Feld), Julie Nash (Housemother), Antonia Clarke (Susan Merrick), Jessica Barden (Mousey), Irene Pereira Moral (Susan Merrick’s Friend 1), Cadhla Kennedy (Susan Merrick’s Friend 2), Ianthe Schnitzler (Sebastian Niece), Harris Gordon (Police Officer), Rod Hallett (Detective Worner), Rob Bateman (Prison Guard), Shirley Roper (Flower Shop Lady), Hovik Keuchkerian (Bartender), Minnie Marx (Mrs. Ortega), Sophie O. (Drunk Woman), Johan Archiles (Terresn), Laia Martinez Rubir (Whiteley Academy Teacher)
Mark Strong plays John, a memory detective, in other words someone who can enter people’s memories and notice details that have otherwise been forgotten. It’s a practice that has proven successful enough to become semi-trusted, if not quite as respected in law as material evidence. After a period of recovery following the suicide of his wife he returns to work and is assigned the case of Anna (Taissa Farmiga), a brilliant but troubled teenager who is suffering from anorexia. His job is to get to the root of her problems and encourage her to start eating again; but the more he investigates the more troubled he becomes about both her and her family. In the meantime, he is also haunted by glimpses of a shadowy figure whose face he can never quite see…
A lot of people reviewing Mindscape have mentioned the similarities to Christopher Nolan’s Inception. For those with memories that span further back than five years ago, though, the production to which it is perhaps most indebted is – as is indicated by the title – the 1984 film Dreamscape, in which Dennis Quaid played a psychic who is able to infiltrate other people’s dreams and who get’s caught up with an attempt to murder the president of the USA. Mindscape drops the political element in favour of a more intimate type of conspiracy and, despite the gimmicky central idea, boils down into one of those ‘is she or isn’t she’ psychological thrillers in which you’re never quite sure whether one of the main characters is a sociopath or a victim.
This was an international co-production with a significant Spanish input from Antena 3 Films (behind such favourites as Julia’s Eyes (2010) and The Body (2012)). Directed by Jorge Dorado, an experienced assistant director who has worked with Pedro Almodóvar and Guillermo del Toro, it’s a well made affair, easily the equal of most Hollywood productions, with classy cinematography and excellent performances (most particularly from Strong and Farmigia). The script is tight and the pacing maintained, although it does lack the distinctively creepy, Spanish ambiance which characterized both Julia’s Eyes and The Body. It’s good – a better than average B-movie thriller which certainly deserves to have had a wider release than it did – but at the same time it doesn’t quite add up; it seems to be trying too hard to be international and as such lacks the distinctiveness of some of the better Spanish product around at the moment.
Review by Matt Blake, 2014
What the critics said
“First-time Spanish director Jorge Dorado aims for Hitchcock and misses by a mile with Anna, an old-fashioned thriller with a stale sci-fi premise and a prodigal waste of talent in co-star Taissa Farmiga.” Inkoo Kang, LA Times.
“If the surreal dreamscapes that propelled Inception had taken place in the deep, dark and dubious recesses of a disturbed adolescent girl’s mind, it would look a lot like Anna. It’s as messy as a teen’s bedroom and packed with all manner of distracting clutter that needlessly burdens a plot.” Susan Wloszczyna, RogerEbert.com.
“Anna closes with a clever if not entirely unexpected flourish that calls into question everything you’ve assumed has gone before and riffs on the way we condense and rejigger our pasts to protect our wounded psyches and avoid facing upsetting realities. If only the movie didn’t insist on constantly telling us what it has quite clearly shown.” Ella Taylor, Variety.
“Actually, I had been working as an assistant director for a while, with directors like Guillermo Del Toro and Pedro Almodóvar, on The Devil’s Backbone, Talk to Her, Bad Education and other films. I was also directing commercials in Spain and trying to make my first feature, but in Spain we have a really weak industry, so it was really difficult, and I decided to move to LA about six years ago. I met Peter Safran, who’s one of Anna‘s producers and became my manager at the time, and he introduced me to Guy Holmes, the writer of ANNA; that’s how I found the script. And then, Jaume Collet-Serra, the director of Orphan, Unknown and Non-stop, wanted to build a bridge between Spanish filmmakers and Hollywood, so he created a company called Ombra Films, and became kind of a mentor to me [and one of Anna’s producers].” Interview: Director Jorge Dorado Gets Inside Taissa Farmiga’s Head in ‘Anna’, Cinephiled.com