AmnesiA (2001): Directed and written by Martin Koolhoven, AmnesiA is the story of two A’s: Alex and Aram (both played by Fedja van Huêt) and their attempts at reconnecting as they attempt to care for their elderly, dying, constantly drunk and frequently hilarious mother (Sacha Bulthuis). That sounds like anything but something I’d usually want to watch, except that there’s also the suicide of their father which has been a point of secrecy and contention for years, as well as the constant power games that Alex unleashes on Aram, including turning his girlfriend Sandra (Carice van Houten) against him. Oh yeah. She’s also a pyromaniac who just appeared in his car one day.
At the same time, Aram has come back to the family home with Wouter (Theo Maassen), a friend who had a crime go wrong and is dying from a bullet to the stomach. This will not help Alex, who can no longer take photographs, as every time he focuses on a subject, he sees the face of a woman who utterly upsets him. One brother is at war with everyone; the other just wants to hide inside himself. There’s no way they can agree, get along or make it through life without great tragedy.
Also: This movie has a lot of female urination to the point that you wonder if it’s some kind of symbolic thing or it’s a Tarantino feet moment.
That said, this is a dark and surreal journey into long-kept family secrets, including a murder in addition to that suicide, and a movie that was meant to be a black comedy, which was lost on audiences, according to the director. Not everything is explained and yet filling in those holes makes this an even more intriguing watch.
Also: Aram’s car has the license plate 28IF, just like Paul’s on the cover of Abbey Road. He’s also barefoot for most of the film, so if I follow the logic that I learned through record album conspiracy theories, he’s already dead.
Suzy Q (1999): Based on the childhood memories of Frouke Fokkema, who wrote the script together with director Martin Koolhoven, Suzy Q is about Suzy (Carice van Houten), a young girl coming of age in the 1960s. The title refers to The Rolling Stones’ cover of the Dale Hawkins song “Susie Q” and the Stones — most importantly Mick Jagger and his lover Marianne Faithfull — figure into the plot, as Suzy finds her way into their hotel room and is kissed by Mick, a fact that no one wants to hear or believe.
Her mother is lost, her father is abusive yet powerless and her brothers are trying to escape with either guitar or young lust. Suzy yearns for a time when she will escape these origins, but it won’t happen just yet. But she will get away.
This is a strong early film for Fokkema and Carice van Houten is incredible. Demetri Jagger was set to play his uncle Mick, but he backed out with some worry that the rock star would not approve. Instead, that’s Andrew Richard — Andy Bird, a one-time lover of Madonna — playing the singer.
All of the music rights kept this from coming out on DVD for some time. Koolhoven encouraged people to post the movie online and did it himself on YouTube.
Dark Light (1997): A burglar (Marc van Uchelen) gets caught breaking into the farm of an old woman (Viviane de Muynck). She’s obsessed with religion. Her body is covered with sores. Things get weird.
She believes that the thief is there by divine intervention and she must enact his penance, which means forcing him to slaughter a pig and lick her body, which is a horrifying moment in direct contrast to the barren and beautiful location that this is set at.
He remains handcuffed throughout as they both throw Biblical passages at one another and battle for some kind of power over one another. She sees herself as Job, afflicted with sores of some plague. We never see her face.
For an early film, Dark Light proves the talent of its creator, director and writer Martin Koolhoven.
The Cult Epics blu ray of AmnesiA has a 4K HD transfer (from the original camera negative) and restoration of the movie, plus an introduction by Martin Koolhoven, commentary by Koolhoven and Fedja van Huet that is moderated by Peter Verstraten, a conversation with Koolhoven and Carice van Houten, a making of, behind-the-scenes footage and a trailer. Plus, there’s a second disk with two TV films by Koolhoven: Suzy Q and Dark Light. There’s also new slipcase art by Peter Strain and a double-sided sleeve with original film posters. You can order this movie from MVD.