AmnesiA is a Dark and Dreamy 90’s Hidden Gem

The piece below was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the art being covered in this piece wouldn't exist.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I first hit play on Martin Koolhoven’s (Winter in Wartime, Brimstone) Danish theatrical debut AmnesiA, but what I got has stuck with me since I sat down to watch it sight unseen a few weeks ago. The film was completed in 2001, but feels both visually and thematically imbued with the DNA of Gregg Araki’s Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy.  The film stars Fedja van Huêt as Alex, a young man who is harboring a dark secret, called back to his rural home by his identical twin brother Aram (also Fedja van Huêt) to watch over their sick mother. When he gets in his car in the city a beautiful young woman appears in his backseat, played by a very young Carice van Houten, who starred in the director’s previous television film Susie Q. Most will probably recognize her from playing Melisandre, the Red priestess from Game of Thrones. It’s never really explained where she’s from or how she ended up in the back seat of Alex’s car, but the beautiful pyromaniac accompanies Alex and is passed off as his fiance. 

It’s on their arrival that the film gets into full swing and the mysteries bubbling in the background really come to the forefront. Alex’s twin Aram shows up a few days into his stay after a botched robbery with his accomplice, who spends the majority of the film bleeding from a gut wound a la Reservoir Dogs. This is something that is strangely played to more comedic effect, as the Aram/Alex take feels like a performance that possibly informed Tom Hardy’s take in Legend. Ultimately sex, jealousy and family secrets are the raw materials that this film uses to tell its story of two brothers who did something unspeakable with the best of intentions that unraveled their family forever. How Martin Koolhoven slowly deals out the dream-like flashbacks to inform the audience on the event masterfully reveals the machinations behind how things not only came to be in the family, but how they are going to play out in the ending. 

This was a total blind watch for me based solely on the cover and the distributor (Cult Epics) and I walked away just enamored with the film. While the film operates on dream logic, it’s the exquisite performances that make this film as memorable as it is.  Fedja van Huêt just does an amazing job as both brothers, who feel different but eerily similar. He’s complemented by Carice van Houten, who feels like a mix of Claire Danes and Rose McGowan in her take on the mysterious femme fatale.

The two disc Blu-ray special edition comes not only with a new 4K transfer of AmnesiA, but an introduction by Martin Koolhoven and audio commentary by Martin Koolhoven, Fedja van Huet, moderated by Peter Verstraten. The second disc contains Martin Koolhoven’s TV films Suzy Q (1999) and Dark Light (Duister Licht) (1997) that both complement AmnesiA fairly well. If you’ve been curious about this one like I was and anything above further sparked your curiosity, I can’t recommend this title enough.

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