Amnesia, the second directing credit from Norwegian filmmaker Nini Bull Robsahm, is a slow but often jolting consideration of domestic abuse. A couple travel to their beautiful remote island getaway for a week of writing and romance. Both are authors, but Kathrine (Pia Tjelta) is perfecting her first novel in the hope she can become as successful as her domineering partner, Thomas (Christian Rubeck). After a fight leaves Thomas with serious memory loss, Katherine jumps on the opportunity to live with the man she really loves.
It’s a great idea for a horror film, but Robsahm seems ultra-cautious of letting her film become just that. Placid colouring and wide shots take a dark seedy story and try to pull its trousers up. If this had been grimier, it could have been a Nordic exploitation film, instead, its an emotionally troubling but visually dull attempt at reconciling with the aggressive male superego. Even with a run time of 80 minutes, Amnesia feels tired and somewhat irritating by its finale: a lack of drive in any real direction keeps the film from ever really impressing or- worse- finishing comfortably. But then that is, perhaps, the point: dreamy fatigued visuals project the purgatory of Kathrine’s constant struggle, whilst the lack of catharsis seems oddly fitting in a film plagued by disastrous moments of aggression.
Though brutally realistic and unrelenting in its studied portrait of abuse, Amnesia seems content to show us high-tension confrontations, but skimps on much of the between-space. Considering the film covers a week, and it’s a pretty interesting week, Amnesia can be identified by its long stretches of nothing before its few staunch moments of anguish. Though, Rubeck makes a terrifying psychopath, an amalgam of nightmarish men; controlling, cold, fierce, and, arguably worst, entitled. His performance consistently punches out from the drabness to keep the film on course.
Sadly, Amnesia is rarely gripping and infuriatingly anti-cathartic. It is however, a sincere look at what people really are and what we would like them to be.