Busan 2014 Review: RED AMNESIA Is Haunted By Forgotten Ghosts

Editor; Australia (@Kwenton)
Busan 2014 Review: RED AMNESIA Is Haunted By Forgotten Ghosts
Wang Xiaoshuai (Beijing Bicycle) returns to cap off his so-called legacy trilogy with a film that is one part thriller and one part melodrama. It does not always work, but when it does, it is largely thanks to the incredible presence of stage actor Lu Zhong, who plays Deng, the elderly protagonist.

Deng shuffles through her stubborn days harassing her children. She visits her gay son Bing (Qin Hao), whom she cooks for, all the while scolding his lifestyle. His lover appears on screen and is promptly ignored by Deng as her traditional ways refuse to even acknowledge such a scenario.

Later she visits her elder son Jun (Feng Yuanzheng). He too is given undue pressure by her constant visits as the daughter-in-law berates him while asking her to leave. Deng tries to control her children's lives; she states that what belongs to them belongs to her. Her anguish falls on deaf ears and later in her apartment during dinner, she recounts the day to the ghost of her dead husband.

Without warning Deng begins to receive odd phone calls. Initially there is no reason for this and Deng, and her children, ignore these calls. The terror begins to escalate, however, when Deng's home becomes a target, and a mysterious young boy begins to follow her. As the family probes at these threats, Deng's involvement becomes clear, drastically changing the second half of the film to a confrontation with the past.

It is not only this two-act structure that Wang is concerned with, however. Each scene is practically haunted by the past, from Deng's observation about how the elderly frantically book nursing homes while their children neglect them, to the dinners with her deceased husband. In the city, a run-down infrastructure and dilapidated buildings are front and centre, and the overgrowth of flora and fauna is captured clearly on screen as well. In one scene Wang practically flees from a good-natured choir singing 'revolution' songs.

The film takes its time, so the threats come slowly, yet without warning. The film follows Deng's daily routine, and her stubborn nature is emphasized by every interaction she has. Deng is a complicated character. Her old-school nature is endearing but there is also a deep-seeded regret that lingers behind her. Deng's predicament is a slow-burn one that pays off particularly well when the film opts for the obscure and ambiguous. Is Deng really being threatened or is it her mind playing tricks on her?

Inter-cut scenes of a young boy in a strange apartment interrupt proceedings. The camera slowly plans around, emphasizing his uncanny presence; does he belong there, and is he the harasser?

Later she meets the boy. He remains unimplicated and yet a bizarre scene plays out in her apartment as she has dinner with him. She naps and he joins her; later, she wakes and parts of the apartment are destroyed. The question of what is real is not entirely addressed, adding to the paranoia and terror of the situation.

When all is revealed, Deng goes on a journey. The tone and pacing change completely as she goes looking for answers. Her pilgrimage is a cathartic one, and the results of it are hauntingly informed by the forgotten past.

Red Amnesia is not an altogether satisfactory film. The off-kilter, two-act structure and slow-burn pacing make it a tough watch, and despite some allusions to Hitchcock, the thriller elements are more unsavoury than thrilling.

Yet there is something the viewer takes away and ruminates on that is hard to express. It is this powerful realization that will firmly place Red Amnesia in the ironic position of being a fairly unforgettable film.

Red Amnesia

  • Xiaoshuai Wang
  • Xiaoshuai Wang (screenplay)
  • Lei Fang (screenplay)
  • Fei Li (screenplay)
  • Zhong Lü
  • Yuanzheng Feng
  • Hailu Qin
  • Hao Qin
Screen Anarchy logo
Do you feel this content is inappropriate or infringes upon your rights? Click here to report it, or see our DMCA policy.
Busan International Film Festivalred amnesiareviewwang xiaoshuaiXiaoshuai WangLei FangFei LiZhong LüYuanzheng FengHailu QinHao QinCrimeDramaThriller

Around the Internet