The found footage movie is just about as commonplace as the slasher craze that dominated the 1980’s. At this point, it’s an oversaturated sub genre with many titles that have become mundane and predictable. Occasionally, you get one that seeps through the cracks and stands out among the herd, but those are few and far between. Needless to say, they’re a dime a dozen, and sometimes that’s paying too much for what you end up with.
Last year, Romania added its own contribution with Adrian Tofei’s Be My Cat: A Film For Anne. Unsettling at certain moments, it walks a thin line between video diary and a snuff film. When one looks back at some of the well-known entries in the genre, such as Cannibal Holocaust and Blair Witch, there’s a common theme that the two share. They both were successful at blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. Although Blair Witch hasn’t help up over time, it’s impact since its release is undeniable. Be My Cat deserves credit for appearing realistic at certain points, and getting the viewer involved as it progresses. Instead of passé found footage motifs such as a haunted house or exorcism, this one returns to what made the sub genre work in the first place. It presents itself as being realistic, and well within the realm of possibility. No matter what your preexisting opinion regarding found footage might be, there’s no denying this film deserves the praise that it’s received.
A story such as this is only as effective as the actors who bring it to life. The films lead portrayed by director Adrian Tofei. He displays the ambition and enthusiasm towards filmmaking exhibited by Roberto Benigni. He also possesses the mental characteristics reminiscent of Norman Bates. Much like the film he’s a part of, he walks a thin line between ambitious auteur and complete sociopath. He seems to be someone completely unaware about the seriousness or consequence of his actions. Tofei’s delivery is undoubtedly what holds this film together, and keeps you on edge in anticipation to what he plans on doing next. Constantly speaking to the camera about ‘being in character’ as the film within a film takes on a life of its own. Traveling into the world of unadulterated violence, we’re showcased the actions of someone completely withdrawn, and who lacks a moral compass. Be My Cat pushes the boundaries of what we’re used to getting from the sub genre, and delivers a unique character study. It’s low budget aesthetic works in its favor, and helps further the illusion of reality. This is also helped with a complete lack of a soundtrack, and the use of minimal locations.
Beneath the surface is another message, one that spoke to me as a member of the viewing audience. One factor that’s been with us for decades is the obsession that foreign countries have with mainstream American pop culture. (IE—Tofei’s unhealthy obsession with Anne Hathaway’s performance The Dark Knight Rises) As our story takes place in Romania, a country once part of the Eastern bloc during the cold war, much of the story feels like a commentary about how western trends have impacted this part of the world. Someone of a diseased mental state who obsesses over a celebrity is nothing new; just examine one of your local tabloids. Here, it’s another angle used to display our lead’s psychosis.
The general pacing of the film works to its advantage. Although slow at first, when it shifts into high gear, it’s a proverbial shock to the senses. It throws you right into the artificial world created by the film, and keeps you focused until the very end. Despite the redundancy that is often associated with this particular genre, Be My Cat is a new page in an old playbook. It certainly has the potential so set a new standard, and usher in a rebirth of the found footage horror film.