"Amulet" explores the story of Tomaz (Alec Secareanu), an ex soldier from an unnamed foreign conflict, living in strained circumstances in London. Following an accident that leaves him homeless in London, Tomaz is brought to the rotting home of Magda (Carla Juni), a lonely woman, in desperate need of help as she looks after her dying mother (Anah Ruddin). Haunted by his past, he's offered a place to stay in a decaying, claustrophobic house. As he starts to fall for his new companion, Tomaz cannot ignore his suspicion that something insidious might also be living alongside them. Though at first resistant, Magda eventually welcomes him into their lives and allows him to help her care for them. But as he worms his way into their routine and begins to fall for Magda, Tomaz starts to notice strange, unexplainable, and ugly phenomena. Something seems very wrong with the mysterious old woman who never leaves the top floor, and Magda may in fact be enslaved to do her otherworldly bidding.
This film is about international efforts to prosecute rape as a weapon of war. There's a lot of discussion of how the perpetrators mentally recategorize the rapes that occur in war after the event. Allowing them to return to normal civilian life and apparently normal relationships. It's about a character who categorizes himself entirely as a protector and cannot see himself as a aggressor; and how the ideal male protagonist hero role as protector and savior has been used by men in fiction and film to disguise the reality of relations between men and women. The script could be categorized as drama in a similar vein but keep getting drawn back to macabre forms such as horror, noir and ghost stories etc. To talk about some quite elemental ideas about the persecution of women and the film wants the audience to be physically sharing the extreme emotions that persecution engenders in women, it seemed better to describe these in these more extreme or visceral forms.
The film takes the audience on a journey of questioning the protagonist and his motives. From Tomaz as a figure deserving of our pity and Magda as a helpless victim of her mother, an older woman, of course the pariah to a place where we start to understand that Tomaz is living alongside an evil that he believes he can escape and make his own retribution for; that he can decide his own punishment. It's important too that he's a man of high education, stable and loving home life and moral compass; that his act comes as a result of opportunity to do it and opportunity to hide it; not innate evil. Tomaz is a really difficult character.because you’ve got to love him and you’ve got to root for him, but he’s also got to be capable of being revealed as something more sinister. He’s an ex-soldier, you don’t know his nationality, he’s enigmatic. You get the feeling that he’s punishing himself for something that he’s done but for a long time, you don’t know why. He’s a man that’s isolated himself and he’s struggling with the idea of whether he’s allowed to forgive himself for this enormous wrong that he’s committed, that’s what we like about the story, this inner battle of morality. And what you learn about Tomaz very quickly is that he’s got an imposing physicality, but he’s also got puppy dog eyes and you definitely get lovable; but you can believe sinister. The film plays with a bending or warping sense of reality so rather than us always setting up an absolute truth to explore Tomaz sensory landscape with editing that uncoupled the sound or dialogue from the picture at points and so the film feels quite visceral.
When you first meet Magda, she’s scared and sad, she’s almost stereotype of how a male dominated society views women. We're servants, the male is the patriarch so it’s a comment on how ridiculous is it that Magda does all these things for Tomaz. The film plays with gender roles. How the mother being an old woman automatically makes her evil in this genre. That Magda professes herself entirely not in need of protection and yet we don’t question Tomaz enforcing himself on her. And it's always the intention to allow the film an element of slyness. For Magda, she has a plan, a trap for Tomaz to fall into even though she gives him chances not to fall for them. Sometimes the chances are quite hidden, sometimes they’re very obvious but he still doesn’t take that chance to escape, which says something about him. A sort of dark humor in it's more extreme moments and the 'Sister Claire' (Imelda Staunton) role really encapsulates that. Tomaz ends up becoming the source of the evil, Magda ends up becoming the rescuer and the older woman in the attic becomes a former victim.
An iconic marker of horror is the haunted house, which is the beating heart of "Amulet". The London modern day exteriors needs the realistic look and feel of a contemporary drama, the flashbacks have a sense of foreboding fairy tale and the modern day sections in Magda's house has the air of a classic horror in the style of 'Trouble Every Day' or Kusurski's 'Possession' which because of it's very unusual genre placement and, because it's very much grounded in gender war, becomes a touchstone reference. The Magda house interiors gives a sense of unsettling, paranoid feelings; high wide's of rooms or extremely low angles on faces. The film also plays with theatrical slides and pans to give the audience the sense of an unconscious impassive observer to the protagonist's moral degeneration. "Amulet" uses a lot of yellow in the house and a palette of faded yellows and browns that enhanced the sense of a classic horror element to it in these scenes so the sense of time period as well as place feels quite fluid. It breaks down the different spaces that the characters encounter in "Amulet". We've three very distinct worlds, the forest is very saturated and lush and that's to make you feel at home in that space, essentially another way of making the revelation of what’s happened there even more shocking. The house is supposed to be more somber and womb-like and then the blues of the real world are in contrast to that, giving three very different flavors, lulling you into a false sense of security.
"Amulet" demonstrates a hauntingly assured work constructed with frightening momentum. The film builds a profoundly restrained dread, unleashes a phantasmagorical nightmare seething with imagination and purpose. Approaching folklore with a fiery spirit, "Amulet" propels a terrifying morality tale into the realm of high art. A lot of the film is very technical, a lot of genre films, particularly horror are highly constructed films, made very much with the cinematography at the forefront. In a drama, you might allow the actors to really play within a space as they could if they’re on stage. You absolutely can’t do that with a horror film, everything is about specific, constructed shots, which the actors have to step into and do certain things to make it work.
Initially it’s a comment on victimization, which is huge in itself, but also on religion and who religion was created for. Usually a man, so then what's the woman’s role? It’s about how self-serving religion can be but there’s also a great deal of pain and fear and anger and abuse. It’s a feminist horror about forgiveness and we should all ask ourselves, whether forgiveness is ours to give or if we should take it from someone else. Also, if you look at a lot of horror films, there's the question of ‘are we deriving a voyeuristic pleasure from this because it’s about women being hunted or attacked. There are certain tropes around horror, certain expectations in terms of the victim and the savior and the film takes the audience’s comfort and complicity with that and turns it on it's head, messing with convention. Horror is always a response to societal conflict so whatever the topic is, film and horror especially, finds a way to hold a mirror up to that. So part of the subtext of "Amulet" might be around the shift in gender roles that have come up in recent years as more women join the conversation about being marginalized or abused. Women rising up, women having a voice, women taking control, as per the themes in our film, obviously feels like a reflection of current changes in society. It’s the moral issue that emerges from this film.