Mindscape (known as Anna in its United States release) is a 2013 Psychological Thriller film directed by Jorge Dorado in his filmmaking debut, written and produced by Jaume Collet-Serra, and starring Mark Strong and Taissa Farmiga.
John Washington (Strong) is a recently widowed man who works for Mindscape, a detective agency that employs psychics with the ability to enter people's memories to solve criminal cases. Being one of its best psychic agents, and in need for money due to his personal troubles, Washington asks for a case, and is given that of Anna Greene (Farmiga), a brilliant but troubled 16-year-old girl from a disgustingly rich family who is on a hunger strike and has possibly attacked family members. By entering Anna's memories, Washington has the task of determining if she is a victim of dark schemes or a manipulative sociopath herself. Things then become muddled.
Unrelated to the novel Mindscape.
This film provides examples of the following:
- Actor Allusion: Noah Taylor, who plays here a psychic detective, already played a "dream tech support" in the 2001 film Vanilla Sky, which is also the remake of another Spanish film.
- All Just a Dream: Or rather, most of the film was Washington's memories being examined by Lundgren.
- Ambiguously Evil: Anna might or might not be evil, a victim of evil parents, or both things at once. It turns out that, regardless of her parents, she was a piece of work. She's more amoral that evil, though, given that she chose the least harmful route for her plan and ensured that Washington wouldn't ultimately pay from the crime she framed him for.
- Ambiguous Situation:
- It is unclear how much of any character's testimony and perspective is factual, given that the process Mindscape uses to enter someone's memories fundamentally alters those, thus creating an entire cast of Unreliable Narrators. Washington didn't even know he was reliving his previous memories for most of the film. Everyone except him also has a motivation to lie and obfuscate the truth: Anna could be just a murderous sociopath or a genius heiress caught in the midst of a conspiracy to deprive her of her inheritance, if not both; Sebastian is apparently a liar for unclear reasons and played some shady role in Anna's development; and the girls poisoned by Anna in their private school had their own reasons to accuse her. Therefore, what exactly transpired there goes unanswered.
- Anna proves to the mastermind her parents accuse her of being, but her own accusations about how they are framing her as a madwoman in order to discredit her and deprive her of her money are left uncontested by the end of the film. Given that the two lectures are not mutually incompatible and her theory is actually very believable from the clues we are given, the case of both of them being true is entirely possible.
- Is Anna's intelligence which enables her to fabricate memories, or does she have psychic training as well? It's revealed that Sebastian, the head of the Mindscape psychic detective agency, was her therapist since childhood and clearly played some role in developing her mind, but for some reason he hides it from Washington and never really clarifies it. If he was just her therapist, then he's not a very good one, but if Anna was being groomed and trained in something more, possibly into a future Mindscape recruit herself or some other government experiment to utilize her precocious genius, then everything being kept highly secret and Anna locked up makes suddenly much more sense.
- Related to the previous point, the scene where a little girl addresses Sebastian as her uncle at a cocktail party might go unnoticed at first, but the revelation of his past with Anna implies there might be definitely something about this. Is Sebastian simply attending a family party, or perhaps hanging out with wealthy people looking for potential clients for Mindscape? Or is he reunited with another snob couple whom he convinced to subject their child to psychic training under him, as Anna might have been? Also, although it might or might not be meaningless, it is also apparent that the little girl is dressed in an outdated lace dress identical to the one Anna wore as a child when Sebastian visited her.
- Artistic License – Medicine:
- Advertisement, promotional materials and even The Other Wiki claim Washington's task in Mindscape is deciding whether Anna is a sociopath or a victim of trauma. Aside from the fact this is incorrect in the film itself (he is brought to make Anna drop her hunger strike, not to determine such thing; diagnosis is only a tangential part of his job), this disjunctive makes no sense from a psychological viewpoint: unlike the previous case, you can fit the criteria for sociopathy yet be a victim of trauma at the same time, and the two things can be either connected or completely unrelated, so simply diagnosing any of them (or even both) would be utterly inconclusive for Anna's case.
- An in-universe report states Anna suffers from "depression, bipolar disorder and narcissism". Assuming this is a single diagnosis and not a psychiatric history, it would be fundamentally impossible by modern psychological criteria (DSM-V and ICD-10) because the standards to qualify for depression exclude the ones for bipolar disorder and vice versa. To put it in very simple words, depression is a period of sustained low mood, while bipolar disorder is a period of low mood alternating with very elevated mood; if a depressed patient had episodes of elevated mood, it would be considered to be bipolar disorder, and if he did not, it would be depression.
- Badass Normal: Apparently. While Anna never displays tangible psychic powers, her mind is powerful enough to hijack the memory-viewing process and create effectively indistinguishable fake memories. Though one does wonder whether that is really the case or it is rather that she does have psychic powers, giving Sebastian's unrevealed background as her therapist and the question whether the Anna that Washington saw near his apartment was a projection of his own psyche or perhaps Anna projecting herself there mentally.
- Barefoot Loon: The dubiously sane Anna is barefoot through the film due to never leaving her room, although the film never really emphasizes it beyong a single scene where she is rocking her legs back and forth in her bed.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Explored by Anna, who is unusually honest from the beginning about her ability to think like a sociopath. With good reasons.
- Bittersweet Ending: Anna was seemingly a Manipulative Bitch all along and has now gone on the run. We will never know what truly happened between her parents, Sebastian, Mindscape, and the private academy, though. However, she did send Washington photographic evidence that proved she was alive and behind it all in order to exonerate him and ensure his freedom, so Washington can finally move on with his life and possibly find peace with Judith.
- Cute and Psycho: Subtly psycho, in Anna's case.
- Deadpan Snarker: Anna and Ortega have some notable moments of snarking.
- Evil Plan: Subverted. Although Anna dupes Washington in order to cover for her running away and living in hiding until she reaches a legal age, she also does it without spilling blood (in contrast to the previous accusations that she tried to murder Judith) and ensures that Washington was apparently only in prison long enough for her to get away and establish a new life. At the end, it resembles less an evil plan and more a smart ruse by a troubled but significantly kind genius girl desperate to escape an abusive situation.
- Fake Memories: Courtesy of Anna.
- Fille Fatale: While she is not overly trying to seduce Washington like most examples, Anna is flirtatious and suggestive enough to qualify, and the question of whether she was ever actually sexually abused as a prepubescent child, a typical background for those characters, is left eerily ambiguous. Her former teacher Ortega accuses her of being this trope, claiming that she seduced him into taking the pornographic photographs of Anna for which he was convicted, although the fact that the guy was apparently forcing many other female students to do the same casts his words into doubt. At the end, the reality seems to be complex: while Anna eventually accomplishes her goal to escape her family and their virtual compound of a private estate by manipulating Washington emotionally, their relationship never takes on a romantic or sexual dimension, as he rebuffs her flirty jokes without hesitation, and from Anna's perspective Washington is a colleague of her therapist Sebastian and complicit with him and her parents in keeping her confined and discredited.
- I Know You're Watching Me: Anna's memory self (and by the extension, herself) realizes Washington is in her mind when she takes a look at his mind self during a session, something that should not happen. Although Washington admits this is not necessarily a sign of the process going awry (and Washington himself does it later by seeing Lundgren), it leads him to suspect she might try to disguise her memories to fool him.
- Informed Flaw: Anna's official diagnosis is "depression, bipolar disorder and narcissism". While the last one is debatably accurate, proven by her manipulative tendencies, and probably caused by her potentially abusive childhood, something Anna's family and her therapist Sebastian are suspiciously quick to denounce the possibility of, we never get to see enough under her cynic, pseudo-cheery outlook to assess the other two.
- Lampshade Hanging: Blink and you'll miss it, but in one of her flashbacks, Anna is shown reading The Catcher in the Rye. The book has a reputation as a mind control trigger in assassination conspiracy theories, and its plot tells the story of a teenager running away from his family.
- Left Hanging: Was Anna a socipath or not? The film doesn't answer it directly. That said, there are some hints she is not: if she was truly a sociopath with nothing to lose, she could've just murdered her parents as they claimed, or at least her stepfather whom she despised, and let Washington take the blame, but instead she merely drugged them and then ensured Washington's freedom by sending him a photo proving she was alive and well. There's also her line about how she is not a sociopath, but just "smart enough to think like one".
- Manipulative Bitch: Arguably Anna herself, or at least she portrays herself as one to Washington. She states herself that while she may not be a true sociopath, she's smart enough to be as manipulative as one.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Sebastian, Mindscape's director. He never stops being supportive of Washington even after being accused of very nasty things by him. Though how culpable he was in any abuse Anna may have endured as a child is inconclusive - he did suspiciously lie about having visited Anna in her home as a child.
- Shout-Out: A scene shows Anna wiggling her bare legs and feet on her bed while talking flirtatiously to Washington. The title girl's bare feet as a sexualized visual motif is instrumental to the two live action adaptations of Lolita, which director Jorge Dorado named as part of his inspirations for this film.
- The Sociopath: A big question in the movie is whether Anna is one or not. We never really find out for sure.
- Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Peter Lundgren, Washington's colleague, although in this case Dark Is Not Evil.
- Teen Genius: Anna is incredibly perceptive and inquisitive, knows a lot about psychology and is a great artist. And actress.
- Thrill Seeker: An early hint of Anna's possible sociopathy is how she gasps in shock after the admittedly traumatic experience of being mind-probed, only for her to immediately ask him to repeat it. Though it could also be a sign of her intellectual wonder at the process, perhaps even her own latent psychic potential.
- TV Genius: Averted. Compared to most examples, Anna is a significantly natural teenager aside from having an impressive level of social intelligence, knowledge about human psychology and artistic drawing.