Martha (Marthe Keller) has been living a very solitary life on the breathtaking isle of Ibiza for 40 years. Of German descent, she eschews her past heritage --- refusing to speak her native language and play her cello, which sits idly in the corner.
Her seclusion arouses the interest of her new neighbor, Jo (Max Riemelt), a DJ from Berlin, who has arrived on Ibiza to attain street cred by landing a gig at the hottest dance club on the island, Amnesia. Intrigued by Martha --- and inexplicably drawn to her --- Jo pursues a friendship with this puzzling loner.
A visit from his mother (Corinna Kirchhoff), who is about the same age as Martha, and his grandfather, Bruno (Bruno Ganz), provokes admissions from Bruno regarding his part in the Nazi war effort. Martha's refusal to embrace her German background becomes transparent as she probes deeper into Bruno's past, and the complicity of the German people during the war.
Keller, the beautiful Elsa from "Marathon Man' (1976), is still incredibly alluring at age 72. She complements the gorgeous backdrop that is Ibiza. "Amnesia" is an intensely quiet film, suited to Keller's understated performance. Martha's unwillingness to accept the atrocities committed in her homeland play out exquisitely across Keller's lovely face.
Director and co-writer Barbet Schroeder chose Riemelt wisely. He's almost like a younger version of Keller, quite handsome and equally refined. Jo's attraction to Martha is completely believable to me, though I'm not certain David would agree.
"Amnesia" makes a valiant attempt to explore the long-term effects of the Nazi regime. Martha's existence has been defined by her repulsion, but meeting and spending valuable time with Jo, and experimenting with his nascent electronic music, changes her.
I wouldn't label "Amnesia" a "great" small film, but it is interesting enough. Certainly, the magnificent vistas of Ibiza are nearly enough to make this a worthwhile viewing. And Keller is most definitely worthy.
Opinion: Wait for DVD
"Amnesia" is a small film from director Barbet Schroeder, the Iranian filmmaker probably best known for "Reversal of Fortune" (1991) which earned him an Oscar nomination. The title of his new film is apparently a double entendre.
First, 25-year-old Jo (Max Riemelt), a nice looking young man whom Jeanne thinks is adorable, is an aspiring disc jockey at a local club called Amnesia. A very likeable guy, he lives alone on the tiny Spanish isle of Ibiza, but befriends a lovely older woman -- she's about 66 --- named Martha (Marthe Keller) who has lived on Ibiza for 40 years.
The second potential meaning of the title refers to Martha's total reluctance to remember, talk about or even think about her past life in Germany. She avoids anything that conjures up a memory of her native country's abhorrent role in WWII.. She even hides the fact that she speaks German from Jo, so the two converse in English until her truth is exposed.
I found there to be a subtle but ever-so-slightly smoldering sexuality between the two leads even though Martha is old enough to be Jo's mother. Speaking of which, the film begins a brief downward spiral when Jo's mother (Corinna Kirchhoff) and her father Bruno (Bruno Ganz) -- his grandfather, of course --- come for a visit. After exchanging niceties that all new acquaintances go through, Bruno relates a special role he played at a "camp" during the war which does not go over well with the group, especially Martha. Ganz is an accomplished character actor whose face you may recognize, and I was caught up in his character's story.
Most of "Amnesia" is told in flashback, reverting 10 years to the time when Jo and Martha first meet. After a brief opening where we see Martha as an older woman walking alone on the beach with a cane, the movie holds our attention long enough to wonder how the story will unfold in the present.
"Amnesia" features beautiful landscapes, including the sea below framed by the sun-splattered cliffs and colorful skies. Keller is still a beauty at age 72, and though Jo's frequent physical touching of Martha hints at a desire for more, they never exchange so much as a kiss. The film is not a thriller or a great mystery. But it does sustain our interest sufficiently.
Opinion: Wait for DVD