The Scandinavian nations are making a habit of creating some mesmerising thrillers that not only capture your attention when you’re in the cinema but stay with you weeks after its general release. The term ‘Nordic Noir’ has been recently coined to describe this movement and it’s certainly something we dearly welcome. From Iceland came Reykjavik-Rotterdam, the American remake Contraband was produced and starred by Mark Wahlberg. Norway produced the brilliant art heist movie Headhunters. Sweden presented the international disturbing hit with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. And now from Denmark emerges this amnesiac thriller ID:A, which may certainly be worth a viewing but probably not debating over.
The film begins with a woman (Tuva Novotny) waking up in the middle of a lake with a bruise on her head causing memory loss to her identity. She stumbles across a village and takes up resident in a hotel where the bag she’s carrying holds vast amount of Euros in cash, still wrapped in their banking strips. Calling herself Aliena, she treats herself to lavish clothes and fine meals to make herself feel better until she realises peering eyes are watching her every movement. To avoid causing attention to herself, she cuts her hair and changes her hair colour transforming herself from stranger to a fully formed Aliena. Being a Danish film the first twenty minutes are in French as she awakens in a small French village and thinks she’s from the area as she can speak fluent French however it isn’t until she reads a tourist leaflet that she realises her natural language is Danish thus must originate from there.
On her coach ride into Copenhagen, she overhears a familiar tune on a man’s ipod which turns out to be a famous opera singer called Just Ore (Flemming Enevold). After checking herself into another hotel as Anna (now in Danish) she purchases a concert ticket to see Ore where it turns out he’s actually her husband, her real name is in fact Ida and for some reason had ran away from him. Returning to their home she struggles to see why; their house is beautifully lavish and a lifestyle envious of any WAG. But after receiving a phone call from her sister informing her that their brother Martin (Carsten Bjørnlund) is missing, things don’t seem to add up. Alas, the familiar surroundings start to bring her memory back in flashes and realises the disappearance of her brother is far sinister than she first imagined. Without realising, Ida has returned back to the danger she tried to escape from in the first place and only at a life threatening moment, with seconds to spare, is she able to piece together her fragile memory and, in turn, her dramatic life.
As well as an amnesia thriller, the film revolves around an intricate plot that explores political activism and domestic abuse. Director Christian E. Christiansen has produced a film that certainly looks tantalising and the cinematography is gorgeous to look at. The rough, casual terrain of the French village is light and open, almost carefree as Aliena was. Returning to Copenhagen, the mood certainly morphs into being quite apprehensive amongst the backdrop of Copenhagen’s beautiful architecture filming mostly at night or in low lit areas. The story does track over to Rotterdam (where it’s occasionally in English) for a car chase and shoot out sequence that involves Martin and Ida however it’s all over very quickly and doesn’t leave a trace. Which is a shame as that is really what this movie is missing – big action set pieces or more complex/clever scenarios that involve a wider conspiracy. The film is too enclosed. The canvas is small. Our expectations are now so big that it falls short compared to other films of the same genre. And that is the main issue with ID:A – it promises much but delivers half of that.
The pace in the first two acts are extremely demanding introducing a lot of different characters that come and go leaving little room for compassion for any of them. Novotny’s performance was enthralling but not enchanting. The audience follows her confused awareness throughout the entire film discovering clues when she does although at times it does depend on coincidence and chance rather than typical investigative methods – Lisbeth Salander she is not. However at moments the tension is terrifying, never quite knowing if she will in fact survive her ordeal. There’s even a torture scene that is quite gruesome to watch.
ID:A is far from a bad movie. Yes, its struggles at points and is a demanding watch for the first two acts with the final act stringing all the threads together but it is a wonderfully shot film, that’s well executed and the performances are reasonably credible. It certainly doesn’t cater towards a cinematic experience however its a worthy DVD viewing for a chiller, saturday night popcorn movie. All in all, good effort Denmark – think a little bigger next time.
ID:A is released on DVD and available in the UK now.
Reviewed by Vaskar S. Kayastha