Dutch newcomer Martin Koolhoven’s stylish first feature “AmnesiA” is a taut psychological thriller about a reunion between estranged twin brothers that brings disturbing secrets from the past bubbling back to the surface. Sharply photographed in bold, deep colors and skillfully cut into a series of short, pithy scenes, the dark tale of guilt, responsibility and family tragedy at times borders on self-conscious coolness. But despite some pretentiously enigmatic dialogue, its intriguing characters and subtle vein of deadpan humor should help open festival doors.
A photographer whose traumatic memories of an incident from his adolescence prevent him from taking portraits, Alex (Fedja van Huet) gets a call from his identical twin, Aram (van Huet again), urging him to visit their gravely ill mother, Eva (Sacha Bulthuis). The renewal of contact after years of silence unnerves Alex, and his arrival in the surreal, enclosed world of AmnesiA, the family’s countryside estate, pushes him even closer to the edge.
Accompanied by a young epileptic woman, Sandra (Carice van Houten), who lurches out of nowhere into his life and his bed, Alex steps into the shoes of his late father, who committed suicide, while patiently tending to his half-dotty mother and maintaining a chilly distance from his antagonistic brother.
A career criminal laying low after a mishandled job, Aram taunts Alex, who retreats further into his repressed memories. As tension grows within the unbalanced family unit, Alex’s fragmented recollections of an afternoon with Aram in the woods during their adolescence gradually come together.
The brooding, well-constructed drama gets considerable mileage out of the schizoid twin dynamic. This is ably played by van Huet, contrasting Alex’s quiet confusion and intensity with Aram’s coldly aggressive contrariness. Bulthuis introduces some welcome humor via the tipple-happy mother.