Fantasia 2017 Review: ANIMALS Is Marital Purgatory

Greg Zglinski’s relationship drama is much more than a relationship drama.

We’ve seen a lot of movies about infidelity, but we’ve never seen one quite like Greg Zglinski’s Animals, a film that takes the uneasiness of marital discord to a bizarre and even supernatural level.

Anna (Birgit Minichmayr) and Nick (Philipp Hochmair) have been married for years, but who knows how long it’s been since they’ve actually been happy. Nick is a chef working on new recipes and Anna is a children’s author working on her first book for adults, so they rent a large, dark house in the Swiss Alps to focus on their respective endeavors. But first Nick must say goodbye to his mistress and upstairs neighbor Andrea, a woman so bereft at her lover’s departure that she can’t climb out from underneath the comforter. We never even see her face.

Meanwhile, Anna and Nick have hired Michaela (Mona Petri) to house-sit for them, a sexy and rebellious-looking woman who immediately runs into trouble that seems somehow parallel to Anna’s. She slips on a skateboard and injures her head, earning her a bandage exactly like Anna’s after Nick collides with a sheep on their drive out of town. Each woman hesitates outside of a mysteriously similar door, one in the Alps home and one in the apartment Michaela is watching over. Michaela’s preoccupation with the handsome doctor who treats her (Mehdi Nebbou) reminds us of Anna’s growing interest in what her husband is doing when he’s supposedly working.

Time slips and cracks, we see the same scenes from different angles, a truly strange black Abyssinian cat arrives and draws Anna into conversation. All the while, Anna’s paranoia about Nick’s faithfulness grows, while Michaela begins to wonder about the mysterious Andrea upstairs.

Animals is a gorgeous film, all misty blues and swirly greys, and the Alps have never appeared so appealing while also coming across as deeply uncomfortable. The film offers several mysteries in one, each more engaging than the last. It’s blackly comic and occasionally quite poignant, with dark, secretive scenes that reference Hitchcock and Zulawksi in turn. The film is so opaque in its enigma that it would almost frustrate us if it weren’t also making us laugh and drawing us deeper into its weirdly persuasive narrative. We’re not sure what we’re buying here, but we’re buying it wholesale.