The August 1, 2017 Film Movement DVD release of the 2015 Barbet Schroeder film 'amnesia' provides lovers of beautifully filmed character studies with enough depth to be compelling but not so much pretension that you feel as if you are back in your college dorm discussing really deep thoughts at 2:00 a.m. Movement pairing this release with a DVD debut of the (soon-to-be-reviewed) 2016 Argentinian dramedy "Inseparables," which is based on the true story of a one-percenter quadriplegic bonding with his "slumdog" caretaker is awesome icing on the cake.
The only flaw regarding the "amnesia" release is that the good folks at Movement who have a sizable Blu-ray catalog do not offer a BD version of the film. The award-worthy on-location filming on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza, the attractiveness and expressiveness of the ordinary person beauty of the two leads, and the terrific soundtrack all SCREAM for a BD version.
An additional aside regarding stars Marthe Keller and Max Riemelt is mandatory before discussing the film. Their performances evoke thoughts of a hilarious exchange in a festival Q&A that is a bonus feature on another movie. An audience member comments to the director that the leads in that production express a great deal through their expressions and gestures. The director deserves an acting Oscar for keeping a straight face while responding "it's called acting." It is equally amazing that the audience does not erupt in laughter.
The following YouTube clip of the Movement "amnesia" trailer provides a glimpse of the exceptional inner and outer beauty that Schroeder captures on film.
'amnesia' opens with what legendary film critic Leonard Maltin describes as the now almost-universal technique of beginning a movie in the future only to quickly shift the action back to the past to provide context. We see a forlorn 80 year-old Martha wandering around what we later learn is Ibiza in 2000; an intertitle then announces a shift to 10 years in the past soon after the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
The first scene in the future is a relatively common one in the early days of German reunification. This element is Martha (Keller) arguing with her brother about selling the family home in former East Germany. It is clear that Martha has stereotypical German stubbornness regarding even letting the current government of her native land know that she still is alive.
In true movie (and sometimes real-life) fashion, new upstairs neighbor 25 year-old Jo is the right person who comes along at the right time with the right need. He is seeking ice for a burn from a careless injury; Martha effectively pulls the thorn from the paw of the lion cub by offering a successful alternative cure.
We also learn that Jo is a quasi-successful techno DJ with related dreams of stardom in that field and of playing his own compositions; these dreams include employment at the club that gives the film its name.
Martha has more traditional music tastes and believes that there always is room for cello.
The initial encounter clearly sets up the dynamic of Martha being a mother figure and generally dominant one in the ensuing friendship. An example of this that also provides an early clue that Martha lacks a positive opinion of her native land is that she declines an invitation for a ride in the VW bug of Jo and ends up driving him in his car. A more bizarre image of the power dynamic is of Martha rowing her boat while Max is a passenger. The old lady turning out to be a major dick in this scene is the first of several surprises regarding her.
A few Freudian elements that emerge during the "honeymoon" stage of the new relationship are that all males of every age needs a maternal figure and that many men have and Oedipal complex and a related habit of marrying a woman who reminds them of their mother.
The first must-share story regarding the Oedipal aspect of "amnesia" is your not-so-humble reviewer finding infinite humor regarding a college classmate who takes being a Momma's boy to the extent of driving home EVERY Friday to continue his tradition of escorting his mother to the beauty salon marrying an older woman who is a virtual twin of Mom. Another great perspective is the Seinfeld joke that Jewish men typically marry non-Jewish women because they want a wife who does not remind them of their mother.
As the non-traditional friendship in "amnesia" evolves, we learn that the family of Jo follows the philosophy that living in modern Germany requires not dwelling on the Nazi atrocities; in typical fashion, Martha takes a contrary approach. She feels that she must honor the victims of that carnage by remaining angry at her country always and forever and by excluding all aspects of 20th century German existence from her life.
More direct symbolism regarding degrees of collaboration exists as to the career of Jo; a more general parallel is the art v. commerce balance that is a regular topic in Unreal TV articles. Jo is a typical Millennial in that he thinks that he can have it all. He wants to be a star DJ at the hottest club in town but also wants the freedom to play his own compositions, rather than the techno version of the Top 40. As in all other things, Martha provides a voice of reasonable reasonableness.
Martha exhibits equal stubbornness regarding the tough love that she shows Jo that she demonstrates regarding her attitude toward her native land. It is as clear to her as to the audience that the love that Jo feels for her has a carnal element. However, she kindly but firmly refuses to go there or even to discuss the extent to which that love is requited.
The third act conflict that destroys the relative Utopia that Jo and Martha enjoy arrives with the biological mother and the grandfather of the boy. The grandfather is a veteran of the WWII-era German Army and has been conveying his wartime experiences as not being so bad. A challenge to Martha that leads to a challenge to the grandfather results in the dramatic truth coming out. These revelations profoundly impact every important aspect of the life of Jo.
Everyone who has seen a film that starts with a scene in the future knows that the end of the incidents from 1990 are not the end of the story. The final scenes from 2000 in "amnesia" provide more closure. One spoiler is that this includes a few surprises and one particularly unexpected element.
The bonus short film that Movement pairs with "amnesia" is the quirky 13-minute 2016 comedy "Your Mother and I." The adaptation of a Dave Eggers short story mostly occurs in a family kitchen and has a father go on and on to his teen daughter about how he and his (apparently absent) wife solve all the large and small problems of life.
These tall tales include converting all of America to renewable energy sources and stopping genocide; other reported projects revolve around "wants" such as more attractive roads and increasing the population of a particular exotic animal. This narration also includes frequent disconcerting references to the sex life of the miracle-working couple.
Every aspect of "Mother" is humorous; the uncertainty regarding the extent to which any of the stories are true makes it fantastic in both senses of the word.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "amnesia" or "Mother" is encouraged to email me; you also can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.