Overview: A young, obsessive Romanian filmmaker, Adrian, manipulates three local actresses to help him make a movie in order to convince Anne Hathaway to be his leading lady. 2015; Not Rated; 87 minutes.
“First we do, then we think”: If there wasn’t evidence ahead of time that Be My Cat: A Film for Anne is a fictional account, it would be easy to question whether Adrian Tofei’s film is something that should be viewed for entertainment purposes. In recent years, found footage films have developed a narrative and emotional distance between the characters and the audience. Despite the pure enjoyment and thrills they deliver, the found footage format has strayed from its original purpose over time. Where we once had films like Cannibal Holocaust and The Blair Witch Project that were thought to be depictions of reality upon their release, we now have behind the scenes access to films through recognizable actors and directors, special effects, and production schedules. The aura of the found footage film has been cracked by overthinking and overproduction. But Tofei reinstates that aura, not by repairing the crack, but by breaking it into fractals.
Be My Cat is all about doing, about the continual forward motion necessary to create realism and horror. The improvisation between Adrian and actresses Sonia Teodoriu, Florentina Hariton, and Alexandra Stroe feels natural, right down to their pauses, repetitions, and misspoken words. It’s the lack of perfection found in actors playing characters who are also playing characters that gives the film a disturbing authenticity that hasn’t been seen for quite some time in found-footage. The line between what is real and what isn’t becomes murky until the divide between performance art, criminal activity, and our own tangible reality fades.
“Free your soul from your ego”: Without numerous callbacks to cultural horror landmarks, Tofei may have created the most meta-horror film in existence. Adrian Tofei the filmmaker and actor in our world who is not a murderer obsessed with Anne Hathaway, is playing Adrian the filmmaker and actor who is an obsessive murderer, who is subsequently playing the role of Adrian, a murderous man obsessed with an actress in the movie both the first and second Adrian are making. Because Adrian Tofei, the filmmaker who brings his film to festivals, spent a year getting into character, effectively becoming the Adrian we see on film, it becomes nearly impossible to separate the three Adrians from each other.
While we know that the first Adrian Tofei, didn’t murder any of the actresses to make the film (they’ve been seen with him at festival screenings), there are moments in Be My Cat, one in particular that involves chloroform, that are so convincing that it may cause the viewer to pause and wonder exactly how far the performers went. The only time where it’s easy to parse through these layers of reality is near the climax, where a splatter of blood on a sheet looks too light in color to be real. Regardless, there’s a vulnerability to be found in each of these performances that never slips into comfortability, or something that assures you that none of it is real.
Portrait of a Cinema Killer: Before the premiere of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in 1960, the teaser featured the evocative phrase “keep repeating, it’s only a movie…only a movie…only a movie.” Be My Cat, which features some of the psychosis of Hitchcock’s film, could make use of the same tagline, but audiences may find themselves more hard pressed to believe it. Within the boundaries of meta-fiction, Tofei constructs a startling reflection of humanity’s fragile relationship with art, celebrity, and their own mental state without ever exploiting the subjects in the film. There’s no doubt that Adrian, as the obsessive murderer, is a sociopath. He displays all the characteristics from a dislike of people, the killing of small animals, and a lack of conscience. But we’ve seen numerous men and women like this in films before, and so these attributes aren’t what make the film a true example of horror. Rather it’s the use of the camera as a person that makes Be My Cat so unsettling. Adrian constantly speaks to the camera as if it is Anne Hathaway, but we’re the ones viewing through the lens of his camera. As a result we, as audience, become Anne, and everything Adrian does is for our benefit. We are complicit in his acts, witnesses unable to involve ourselves.
Furthering our involvement in Adrian’s horror is the cross cultural pollination of popular culture. In 1996, Wes Craven’s Scream told us “Don’t you blame the movies. Movies don’t create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative.” Be My Cat would not exist as it is without Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises and the kind of cultural fandom that stemmed from it. We who bought tickets helped cement this idea of Anne Hathaway as cat and as leading lady in Adrian’s mind, therefore contributing to his creativity and psychosis. In the end, the horror here is not about recycling the familiar, but taking the familiar and stretching it into something new: a mirror held in front of a mirror to create infinitely strange realities.
Overall: As Romania’s first horror film, Be My Cat: A Film for Anne surpasses expectations. As an entry into the wide catalogue of found footage horror, the film is fascinating, challenging, and essential for its evolution. Adrian Tofei is an excitingly dangerous filmmaker, and we should all be eager and a little afraid to see what he does next.
Editor’s Note: You can read our interview with Adrian Tofei here.
Featured image courtesy of Adrian Țofei and bemycatafilmforanne.com.