Amnesia: coming full circle
by Fabien Lemercier
- CANNES 2015: It's back to Ibiza for Barbet Schroeder who establishes a continuum between modernity and the need to face the hidden shadows of the past
It's in his simple and magnificent family villa in Ibiza, where he filmed his debut feature film, More, presented in the Directors' Fortnight at Cannes in 1969, that Barbet Schroeder once again set his camera rolling 45 years later to film Amnesia [+see also:
film profile], which has also made its way onto the Croisette, and is being screened in a special screening as part of the Official Selection of the 68th Cannes Film Festival. And like this return to the (splendid) setting of this Mediterranean island, it is in the form of temporal reinterpretation that the director brings us the story of an elderly woman (played by the radiant Marthe Keller) who has been living alone in the house for decades and a young man who moves into the house next door to compose electronic music (played by rising star Max Riemelt, most well-known for his role in The Wave). But although time seems to stand still in this isolated land overlooking the sea, where everyone seems to be living the good life, the weight of the past and its influence on the fate of the protagonist is nonetheless at work.
Starting (after a short prologue set ten years later) in the spring of 1990, a few months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, with the unyielding refusal ("tell them I'm dead") of Martha (Keller) to return to Germany to put her affairs in order, Amnesia sees her become fond of Jo (Riemelt) who is trying to break into electro music, recording his sounds and creating loops. But she doesn't tell him that she's German, and only speaks to him in English. A friendship built on platonic love blossoms whilst Martha sees the routine of her life in Ibiza threatened by her landlord who wants to sell the house she's lived in for so long, A prospect that she doesn't mention to anybody, like she's kept quiet about so many other things in her past that slowly but surely come to light, forcing her to make some decisions and exposing Jo to certain truths that youth does not go looking for.
Leisurely weaving through the plot of his film, Barbet Schroeder draws concentric circles around the concept of "nothing was as simple as I had decided it would be" and on the coming together of extremes (old age/youth, classical music/contemporary beats, past/present). Martha's guilty conscience opens Jo's eyes to the mythified behaviour of her family during Nazism (with a one-off appearance by Bruno Ganz), whilst the young musician reawakens Martha, who was set in her certainties. The film patiently builds a bridge between generations, without acting surprised, but allowing its "secet ingredient" to calmly emerge in the shimmering light of Ibiza, framed superbly by director of photography Luciano Tovoli. As despite all the mysteries and all the things that have remained unsaid, nature always ends up reasserting itself.
Produced by Swiss production company Vega Film, Amnesia was co-produced by Parisian production company Les Films du Losange which will release the film in France on 19 August and will also handle international sales.
(Translated from French)