Amnesia (2015) (NR)

Drama 96 min. August 11, 2017
By Tatiana Craine
A December-May friendship blooms amongst postcard-perfect views in Barbet Schroeder's Amnesia. This two-hander is light on plot, but the emotional baggage its leads carry is anything but.

Spry septuagenarian Martha (Marthe Keller) leads a quiet life on the coast of Ibiza after abandoning her native Germany before World War II. It's now 1990 and Martha still refuses to speak her native tongue (or even acknowledge she understands the language). Her new mid-twenties neighbor Jo (Max Reimelt) befriends her after he injures himself and the two kick off an easy friendship.

Under Schroeder's direction, Keller and Riemelt deliver wistful, earnest performances that almost make up for the script's shortcomings, which include, in this story about keeping the past in the dark, forced references to amnesia and unnecessary real estate b-story. Jo -- a fellow German and aspiring DJ hoping to spin at a club called... Amnesia -- opens up his life to Martha, ignorant of their shared homeland until her secret slips. When Jo's family visits, everyone is forced to reckon with their roles in Germany's history.

The entire film is an extended flashback, save for about 90 seconds of Martha literally sitting on a wall, remembering that summer with Jo after the fall of another wall, in Berlin. How much more on-the-nose can it get? Amnesia's uneasy marriage of confronting Nazi legacies and exploring Ibiza's early club scene doesn't always work; but when it does, it's as sweet and smile-worthy as watching Keller gently jam to EDM.
Barbet Schroeder Bruno Ganz, Marthe Keller, Max Riemelt, Rick Zingale, Fèlix Pons, Fermí Reixach, Lluís Altés Barbet Schroeder, Emilie Bickerton, Peter F. Steinbach Film Movement

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