Martin Koolhoven’s 2001 film AmnesiA seems familiar despite its surrealistic premise; it is, essentially, a retelling of the Cain and Abel myth, except in this case the two brothers are twins, there’s a murder-suicide in their past, and a mysterious woman with pyromaniacal tendencies is embroiled in their affairs. AmnesiA often shifts between tense psychological drama and black comedy, something that Koolhoven himself says was fairly lost on audiences during his opening introduction on this Blu-ray; ultimately, though, the film finds itself in an unsettling liminal space full of saturated colors and ponderous moments.
The film stars Fedja van Huet as both brothers, Alex and Aram – and one assumes the reason for the title’s capitalization – visually distinguished by Alex’s spiky hair and casual attire versus Aram’s slicked hair, business suit, and bare feet. The crux of the plotting revolves around their mother (Sacha Bulthuis), who has sickened while being cared for by Aram at their home. Alex comes home to help take care of her, accompanied by random passenger in his car Sandra (Carice van Houten), and much of AmnesiA explores the surreal environment of their house; Aram’s involvement in crime has him bringing home a gutshot man (Theo Maassen) and Sandra seems to be hiding (or running from) something of her own.
Koolhoven keeps things very laid back for the most part; the film rarely comes to boiling points, instead simmering tepidly throughout much of its runtime. It’s clear there are things the audience isn’t privy to, and Aram continually berates Alex for various character traits that hint at something from their past. Memories are shown in oversaturated yellows from their childhood, though the full revelation of their meaning doesn’t happen until the final moments of the film. This slow pacing could turn off some viewers, but the bizarre exchanges and darkly humorous moments buoy the film along to a surprisingly successful and cathartic conclusion.
The film’s ending is probably the most effective element. Punctuated by a compelling tense score and a dearth of dialogue, the standoff between the two brothers brings both pathos and a disquieting closure to the proceedings that gives AmnesiA a particularly downbeat finale.
For all of its surrealism, though, Koolhoven is a bit too eager to wrap things up into an unsurprising bow. The slow trip down memory lane is less satisfying when the conclusion offers up some expected revelations, while other elements hinted at throughout the film – like Sandra’s mysterious appearance – are simply left without comment or resolution. There’s an air of something not quite finished here, but for those that enjoy bleak humor and some satisfying saturated cinematography, AmnesiA is interesting enough to forgive its feelings of deja vu.
Full uncompressed screenshots from this Blu-ray.
Cult Epics has released AmnesiA on Blu-ray with a new 2-disc limited edition featuring a new 4K transfer of the original camera negative. The results are gorgeous, offering a filmic medium-bodied grain and accentuation of a number of details throughout the film’s cinematography. Particularly stunning are the environmental vistas throughout, along with excellent definition in background shots containing wallpaper or Sandra’s floral blouse. The film has subtle damage but nothing particularly obvious. Color grading is also well-craft, with the yellow-hued memories visually appealing while stark reds and greens are also on display. Overall, a very good transfer from Cult Epics here.
Audio is presented with a number of Dutch language options. An original LPCM 2.0 stereo mix is the main option, but a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track and a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround offering are also available. All sound great; for purists, the stereo option is a good choice, but the 5.1 equally offers some excellent use of ambience. English subtitles are also included.
Cult Epics has collected a number of extras here, including a new audio commentary from Martin Koolhoven and Fedja van Huet, moderated by Peter Verstraten. The trio go into a lot of details about the meaning of specific shots and scenes within the movie, as well as background information about the production of the film. It’s mainly led by Koolhoven with Verstraten supplying some prompts. There’s also a 45 minute conversation between Koolhoven and actress Carice van Houten, who discuss the various elements at play in the movie; an interesting tidbit finds van Houten confessing that she was in the dark about some of the motivations of her character, and also that she does not remember a whole lot about the movie. There’s also a quick new introduction from Koolhoven that can be played prior to the film.
Finally, this release also collects a few archival featurettes, including a 37 minute making-of featurette from the film’s release and a short behind-the-scenes vignette with an interview with van Houten. A theatrical trailer of the film is included along with trailers from other Cult Epics releases.
The second disc in this release contains two of Koolhoven’s earlier TV movies, the feature-length Suzy Q and the hour-long Dark Light, along with their trailers.
Finally, this release gets double-sided artwork and a slipcover with new original artwork by Peter Strain.
DISC 1: AmnesiA (2001)
NEW 4K HD Transfer (from the original camera negative) and Restoration
NEW Introduction by Martin Koolhoven (1080p; 1:02)
NEW Audio Commentary by Martin Koolhoven, Fedja van Huet, moderated by Peter Verstraten
NEW A Conversation with Martin Koolhoven & Carice van Houten (1080p; 45:38)
The Making of AmnesiA (1080p; 37:53)
Behind-the-Scenes with Carice van Houten (1080p; 1:18)
Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 1:43)
DISC 2: (LTD. Edition)
Bonus TV films by Martin Koolhoven
Suzy Q (1999) (1080p; 1:24:35)
Dark Light (Duister Licht) (1997) (1080p; 54:45)
Suzy Q trailer (1080p; 1:05)
Dark Light trailer (1080p; 0:57)
NEW Slipcase Art by Peter Strain
NEW Double-sided Sleeve with Original Bonus Film Posters
A slow burn film but one with a satisfyingly dark conclusion, AmnesiA is worth a look for those who enjoy surreal psychological drama. This Cult Epics Blu-ray provides an excellent HD transfer and a number of great extras, along with two additional films from Martin Koolhoven.
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