Flashbacks Chapter One draft continued part 6

Science Fiction, flashbacks and time travel

Flashbacks are a form of time travel, a jump into the past, in a flashback, or a leap into the future in a flashforward. Science fiction genre is the epitome for the use of flashbacks, in films where time travel is the basis of the narrative the spectator is transported back into time either through the memory of a character in flashback or a telling flashback the past events revealed through a narrator or protagonist of the time and not from the future. In the science fiction film Interstellar (2014),

Flashbacks Interstellar
Interstellar movie poster

Cooper a former astronaut is coerced into piloting a space mission to save humans from a dying planet. Earth is experiencing a blight, its crops are failing, the soil blown across the land in an endless cloud of dust. Flashbacks are used to link Cooper back to his past and to his daughter while she was just a child and later as an adult on the family farm. What is interesting is that the flashbacks that Cooper and his daughter experience are triggered by Coopers actions in the future and in travelling back in time to events in his past from his current time and place in interstellar space. This may be a rare example of flashbacks and time travel it could be argued that all flashbacks are forms of time travel as Maria Lopes, visual artist and researcher states … the techniques of flashback to depict a relationship between present and past or between mental associations and psychological meaning or significance of past events…” (Lopes, Ncc and Bastos, 2019: 2). For example a flashback links Cooper back to a past event which simultaneously reminds the spectator of a key element into the film, Cooper, his faceplate cracked in the attempt on his life, struggles to breathe, his faceplate begins to fog, which precedes a jump into a flashback to an event in the past to the scene where Cooper presents his daughter with an identical watch to his own that he is taking with him on his mission into space. The flashback ends as his daughter flings the watch away from her. The shot cutting back to the scene of Cooper back on the planet still struggling to breathe. The reason for this flashback is to remind the spectator of the significance of the watch for when in another flashback sequence, the importance of the watch becomes apparent. In another flashback Cooper enters the Black Holes event horizon. He sees his daughter and himself repeated in infinity. Each iteration a flashback, back to memories of and events between Cooper and his daughter.

Flashbacks time travel
Inside the Tesseract BTS

These memories are of the messages sent back into the past by a time travelling Cooper that are manifested within her bedroom. The books fallen from the bookshelves attributed to a poltergeist, the altered gravity revealed by the tracks in the floors dust. In the flashback we see Cooper from a relative position in time and space but also seemingly behind the bookcase. strumming the strings of gravity to create the gravity lines in the dust on the bedroom floor. Flashback to the memory of Cooper slamming shut his daughter’s bedroom window as the dust storm rages around the house revealing the gravity tracks in the dusty floor, we see Cooper of the future viewing himself in the flashback closing the window while looking through the back of the bookcase while still in a distant future and interstellar space. A shared past between Cooper and his daughter, as Turim suggests “If flashbacks give us images of memory, the personal archives of the past, they also give us images of history, the shared and recorded past.” (Turim, 2014: 15). Most of the flashbacks are centred around Coopers memories of his daughter and her, as its turned-out well-founded belief that someone was trying to send her a message. But as some of the flashbacks are to a time where Coopers daughter is an adult and from a time after Cooper had left the Earth and therefore Cooper could not have been present at these points in time and therefore these flashbacks would be external or telling and could not be derived from his own memory. Turim argues that “[t]he telling or remembering of the past within a film can be self-conscious, contradictory, or ironic. Some
flashback narratives actually take as their project the questioning of the reconstruction of the historical.” (Turim, 2014: 15). Interstellar (2014) is a confusing film for the spectator in many ways with the use of flashbacks and the concept of time travel manipulating the films timeline transporting the past into the future and the future into the past. This is made apparent in the flashback sequence where Cooper who has time travelled back into the past reaches out and into the spaceships hull as it travels through the wormhole. This scene towards the end of the film links back to the earlier scene where it is revealed in flashback that It is Coopers hand that reached through to the ship to as the Endurance entered the Black hole. Turim states…”the flashback in film is a cinematic device that fully exploits the
properties of successive moving images.” (Turim, 2014: 35). This is an important observation, the timeline of a film progresses in successive moving images, but the flashback allows the filmmaker to break into this linear sequence of images and to insert another successive sequence of images but from another time, from the future or past. flashbacks blade runner 2049In the film Blade Runner 2049 (2017) one of K’s memories from his childhood is of a wooden toy horse. In the scene where K returns to the farm to continue his investigation at the dead tree, he finds a number, 61031 cut into its base, this triggers a flashback to a memory of a toy he once owned, a wooden horse which had the same number cut into one of the hooves. But “K” is a replicant a bio robot and his original memories before activation are all prosthetic, given to him by his creators.
Prosthetic memories are adopted as the result of a person’s experience with a mass cultural technology of memory that dramatizes or recreates a history he or she did not live. (Landsberg, 2004: 28)
Memory is central to the narrative of Blade Runner 2049 (2017), this will be further explored in chapter 2 on prosthetic memory.

Bibliography

Alexander Pope – The British Library (no date). Available at: https://www.bl.uk/people/alexander-pope (Accessed: 21 June 2020).
Ansell-Pearson, K. (1994) An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker, An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker. Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/cbo9780511606144.
Bordwell, D. (1979) ‘The Art Cinema as a Mode of Film Practice.’, Film Criticism, 4(1), pp. 56–64. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44018650?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents (Accessed: 8 May 2020).
Bordwell, D. (2009) Observations on film art : Grandmaster flashback. Available at: http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2009/01/27/grandmaster-flashback/ (Accessed: 12 March 2020).
Bordwell, D. (2017) Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling.
Bordwell, D., Staiger, J. and Thompson, K. (2002) The classical Hollywood Cinema Film Style & Mode of Production to 1960.
Bordwell, D., Thompson, K. and Smith, J. (2016) Film Art: Creativity, Technology, and Business, Film Art: An Introduction.
Boucher, G. (2019) ‘The Limey’ At 20: Steven Soderbergh Revisits His “Vortex Of Terror” – Deadline. Available at: https://deadline.com/2019/12/steven-soderbergh-looks-back-the-limey-his-personal-vortex-of-terror-1202792732/ (Accessed: 10 February 2020).
Colman, F. (2012) Film, theory and philosophy: The key thinkers, Film, Theory and Philosophy: The Key Thinkers. doi: 10.5860/choice.48-0157.
Fear, D. (2019) Steven Soderbergh on the 20th Anniversary of ‘The Limey’ – Rolling Stone. Available at: https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-features/steven-soderbergh-interview-20th-anniversary-limey-921006/ (Accessed: 5 February 2020).
Geiger, J. and Rutsky, R. . (2005) Film Analysis. A Norton Reader. First. Edited by J. Geiger and R. . Rutsky. W. W. Norton & Company: Inc.
King, G. (2013) What Else Is Lost with Memory Loss? Memory and Identity in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Bright Lights Film Journal. Available at: https://brightlightsfilm.com/what-else-is-lost-with-memory-loss-memory-and-identity-in-eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind/#.XiA2t-LANp9 (Accessed: 16 January 2020).
Landsberg, A. (2004) Prosthetic Memory : The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture. New York: Columbia University Press. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=107227&site=ehost-live&authtype=ip,shib&user=s1523151.
Lopes, M. M., Ncc, I. and Bastos, P. B. (2019) ‘Memory ( Enhancement ) and Cinema : an exploratory creative overview’.
Musgrove, M. (2013) ‘Nestor ’ s Centauromachy and the Deceptive Voice of Poetic Memory ( Ovid Met . 12 . 182-535 ) Author ( s ): Margaret W . Musgrove Reviewed work ( s ): Published by : The University of Chicago Press Stable URL : http://www.jstor.org/stable/270542 . War and’, 93(3), pp. 223–231.
Pramaggiore, M. (2008) Film : a critical introduction. 2nd ed. Edited by T. Wallis. London: Laurence King.
Radstone, S. (2007) ‘Trauma theory: Contexts, politics, ethics’, Paragraph. Edinburgh University Press, 30(1), pp. 9–29. doi: 10.3366/prg.2007.0015.
Radstone, S. (2010) ‘Cinema and memory’, in Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates. Fordham University Press, pp. 325–342.
Rodriguez, E. (2016) Flashback | cinematography and literature | Britannica, Encyclopaedia Britannica. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/art/flashback (Accessed: 3 June 2020).
Salt, B. (1992) Film style and technology : history and analysis. 2nd ed. London: Starword.
Turim, M. (2013) Flashbacks in film: Memory & history, Flashbacks in Film: Memory & History. Taylor and Francis. doi: 10.4324/9781315851761.
Turim, M. C. (2014) Flashbacks in film : Memory & history. Routledge.

 

Flashbacks Chapter One Draft continued part 5

The Limey Wilson on plane screenshot

Flashbacks

Flashbacks exploring their use in The Limey (1999)

Flashbacks and The Limey (1999) Wilson in car scene
The Limey (1999) Wilson in Los Angeles

What this means is that through flashbacks the spectator can experience the past and memories of a character even if they have forgotten them, as in the case studies taken from Still Alice (2014) and The Notebook (2004). However, Caruth the literary theorist argues, for instance, that “[w]hat returns in the flashback is not simply an overwhelming experience that has been obstructed by a later repression or amnesia, but an event that is itself constituted, in part, by its lack of integration into consciousness.” (Radstone, 2007 :9). While these case studies may not be considered directly drawn from trauma, I would argue that the effects are similar, that the loss of memory and identity must be traumatic.

The Limey movie poster smallIn the case study of the film The Limey (1999) the narrative has multiple examples of using flashbacks. Through these flashbacks and the creative use of the editing process appears to make it seem as if the film is always looking backwards as the Director intended, the fragmented editing process represents the fragmentation of the main protagonist’s, Wilson’s memory. In an interview for Rolling Stone magazine the director Soderbergh states that “[g]iven its premise, it seemed there was some possibility to recraft it into a memory piece”. (Fear, 2019) There are flashbacks within flashbacks and flashbacks looking back to a past that Wilson could not have participated. For example, the flashback to a past with appears to be a young Wilson and Jenny, this what we would call a meta-flashback with footage sourced from another film, by the Director Ken Loach, Poor Cow (1967). This meta-flashback integrates so well into The Limey’s linear timeline so that the spectator doesn’t

Flashback to Poor Cow 1967 Dir. Ken Loach
Poor Cow (1967) Dir. Ken Loach

need to imagine a younger Wilson or Jenny they can relate directly through to the characters past through this flashback. The fragmentation of Wilsons memory represented in a montage of flashbacks as Turim argues “…the “flashback” is outside of a narrative frame though it bears within it its own narrative elements and a notion of being of the past, a past not regained, but reframed in montage with other found footage in rapid fragmentation. (Turim, 2014: 275). I have identified (see Oldboy 2003) that flashbacks can be triggered by a personal experience, an image, sound, a smell from the senses, that can be used to trigger these memories of past events. While in some films these triggers are not always evident however the spectator can infer that they are there, in this case they are experienced by Wilson, for example the contents of a letter triggering flashback memories, a visual montage of his fragmented past with his daughter, Jenny, while Wilson was in and out of prison. In addition, Wilson also experiences a flashforward, a prolepsis, triggered visually by a solitary photograph of Wilson’s daughter, Jenny, during his wandering around the protagonist Valentines home.

The Limey shooting Valentine in flashbacks
Wilson imagines various scenarios of him killing Valentine

The flashforwards appear as alternative futures and all are violent. In this scene Wilson visualises the alternative outcomes/possibilities of killing Valentine, futures that do not come to fruition as he is stopped before execution. As I have argued previously not all flashbacks are character memory derived, Robert Sinnerbrink a philosopher and film theorist argues that the theories of Hugo Münsterberg a pioneer of applied psychology and the strength of the relationship between memory and flashbacks in film. He states “[w]hile it is certainly true that flashbacks are often connected with a particular character, it is not clear that we should simply assume that these “belong” to the character in question or, more bizarrely, that they are an “objectification” of his or her mental processes (most flashbacks are about rather than of a character).” (Colman, 2012: 24). This seems to appropriately explain some of the editing decisions made in The Limey (1999) with the defragmentation of the film sequences and montage of the flashbacks. The use of montage the joining of sequences in non linear order and out of sequence shots, these sequence of flashbacks which are of events that Wilson could and could not have been present, the mixture of those derived and not derived from his memories and therefore external or telling flashbacks. Bordwell argues “[r]evelation flashbacks and reminder flashbacks can blend to create the replay flashback. Here we revisit incidents we have already seen or heard (so it’s a reminder), but we also learn about aspects of the action that weren’t previously shown (so it’s a revelation too)”. (Bordwell, 2017: 77).

Wilsons fragmented memory represented through the use on montage, the fragmented editing process is intended to confuse the spectator and represent the fragmented state of Wilsons memory. However, using reminder flashbacks and returning to a scene or a shot reminds the spectator of key elements of the narrative, for example the shots of Wilson seated on the plane is revisited several times, asking the spectator to decide if Wilson is arriving or departing or possibly just a shot of Wilson recalling a memory? As I mentioned in my opening statement and it is worth mentioning again the interview between Geoff Boucher editor of the online magazine Hollywood Deadline in an interview with the director, where Soderbergh is reported to have said that “[w]e created or tried to create, meaning and emotion through repetition and juxtaposition, which again, is something that’s unique to movies. The ability to mould something and then change the meaning or alter the meaning just by reordering and repeating things, that’s unique in film.” (Boucher, 2019).

Bibliography

Alexander Pope – The British Library (no date). Available at: https://www.bl.uk/people/alexander-pope (Accessed: 21 June 2020).
Ansell-Pearson, K. (1994) An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker, An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker. Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/cbo9780511606144.
Bordwell, D. (1979) ‘The Art Cinema as a Mode of Film Practice.’, Film Criticism, 4(1), pp. 56–64. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44018650?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents (Accessed: 8 May 2020).
Bordwell, D. (2009) Observations on film art : Grandmaster flashback. Available at: http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2009/01/27/grandmaster-flashback/ (Accessed: 12 March 2020).
Bordwell, D. (2017) Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling.
Bordwell, D., Staiger, J. and Thompson, K. (2002) The classical Hollywood Cinema Film Style & Mode of Production to 1960.
Bordwell, D., Thompson, K. and Smith, J. (2016) Film Art: Creativity, Technology, and Business, Film Art: An Introduction.
Boucher, G. (2019) ‘The Limey’ At 20: Steven Soderbergh Revisits His “Vortex Of Terror” – Deadline. Available at: https://deadline.com/2019/12/steven-soderbergh-looks-back-the-limey-his-personal-vortex-of-terror-1202792732/ (Accessed: 10 February 2020).
Colman, F. (2012) Film, theory and philosophy: The key thinkers, Film, Theory and Philosophy: The Key Thinkers. doi: 10.5860/choice.48-0157.
Fear, D. (2019) Steven Soderbergh on the 20th Anniversary of ‘The Limey’ – Rolling Stone. Available at: https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-features/steven-soderbergh-interview-20th-anniversary-limey-921006/ (Accessed: 5 February 2020).
Geiger, J. and Rutsky, R. . (2005) Film Analysis. A Norton Reader. First. Edited by J. Geiger and R. . Rutsky. W. W. Norton & Company: Inc.
King, G. (2013) What Else Is Lost with Memory Loss? Memory and Identity in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Bright Lights Film Journal. Available at: https://brightlightsfilm.com/what-else-is-lost-with-memory-loss-memory-and-identity-in-eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind/#.XiA2t-LANp9 (Accessed: 16 January 2020).
Landsberg, A. (2004) Prosthetic Memory : The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture. New York: Columbia University Press. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=107227&site=ehost-live&authtype=ip,shib&user=s1523151.
Lopes, M. M., Ncc, I. and Bastos, P. B. (2019) ‘Memory ( Enhancement ) and Cinema : an exploratory creative overview’.
Musgrove, M. (2013) ‘Nestor ’ s Centauromachy and the Deceptive Voice of Poetic Memory ( Ovid Met . 12 . 182-535 ) Author ( s ): Margaret W . Musgrove Reviewed work ( s ): Published by : The University of Chicago Press Stable URL : http://www.jstor.org/stable/270542 . War and’, 93(3), pp. 223–231.
Pramaggiore, M. (2008) Film : a critical introduction. 2nd ed. Edited by T. Wallis. London: Laurence King.
Radstone, S. (2007) ‘Trauma theory: Contexts, politics, ethics’, Paragraph. Edinburgh University Press, 30(1), pp. 9–29. doi: 10.3366/prg.2007.0015.
Radstone, S. (2010) ‘Cinema and memory’, in Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates. Fordham University Press, pp. 325–342.
Rodriguez, E. (2016) Flashback | cinematography and literature | Britannica, Encyclopaedia Britannica. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/art/flashback (Accessed: 3 June 2020).
Salt, B. (1992) Film style and technology : history and analysis. 2nd ed. London: Starword.
Turim, M. (2013) Flashbacks in film: Memory & history, Flashbacks in Film: Memory & History. Taylor and Francis. doi: 10.4324/9781315851761.
Turim, M. C. (2014) Flashbacks in film : Memory & history. Routledge.

 

Flashbacks Chapter One Draft part 4

Flashbacks

Anna Fashion Shoot
Anna Fashion Shoot turns violent

Flashbacks reveal character information

Anna Movie Poster Small
Anna (2019) by Luc Besson Movie Poster

Anna (2019) a film where the linear timeline is proliferated with flashbacks and flashbacks within flashbacks, each of which is essential to the scene, for the spectators understanding of the main protagonist’s actions and the film’s progression. The flashbacks are extended so much so that the flashbacks within the flashbacks are also extensive as Bordwell states “[e]xtended flashback sequences usually include material that the remembering character could not have witnessed or known. Character memory is simply a convenient immediate motivation for a shift in chronology; once the shift is accomplished, there are no constant cues to remind us that we are supposedly in someone’s mind. (Bordwell, Staiger and Thompson, 2002: 43).

Casablanca (1942) Movie Poster
Casablanca (1942) Movie Poster

This statement appears to be particularly relevant to the flashback sequence in Casablanca (1942) which I mention elsewhere in this chapter. In the case of Anna (2019) each of the flashbacks revisiting memories from Anna’s past and expanding upon her character’s origins with details essential to understanding through these flashbacks how and what is happening in the chronological timeline. The flashback sequences are clearly identified, each preceded by an intertitle with date information indicating how many years in the past for each event that is revealed in flashback. Without these flashback sequences the spectator would be left uncomprehending as without the character information revealed in the flashbacks, the linear timeline and the narrative would be proliferated with holes/gaps in the narrative. Referring back to my opening statement on the director Soderbergh and as Bordwell states “The story is the chain of events in chronological order. But as we’ve seen, that story may be presented in various ways. If we use flashbacks instead of linear time, or if we decide to organize events around one character rather than another, or if we make other choices about presentation, we will be creating a different plot. (Bordwell, Thompson and Smith, 2016: 75). For an example of what Bordwell is referring to regarding flashbacks changing the plot in the above quotation, see my paragraph on the film The Limey (1999). How manipulating the narrative through the editing process, the timeline and the sequences of the flashbacks creates a totally different narrative from the original screenplay when compared with what a completely linear timeline would have looked like.

In Anna (2019) the flashbacks use classical conventions for entering and exiting for example, flashes to white, fades a cross dissolve combined with the sounds of a camera’s shutter operation. A lengthy flashback with flashbacks within it, provides some of the origins of Anna’s character to inform the spectator through these flashback sequences details of her background and her training as a spy. The flashbacks inform the spectator who now has some understanding as to how in one scene a market stall seller in Russia makes the jump into a modelling job in the Paris fashion industry. Then in a later scene from fashion model to an International assassin. This fits in perfectly with a quotation by Bordwell who states “Most obviously, a flashback can explain why one character acts as she or he does.” (Bordwell, 2009). The use of intertitles at the beginning and the end of the sequence clearly indicates the start and ending of the flashback and where in the past that the events occur, although the much earlier childhood flashbacks are not so indicated, instead these use the classical conventions of fades, sound and flashes to white to enter and exit the flashback sequences. As Bordwell states “If your flashbacks skip around a lot, you might worry about viewers’ losing their bearings. So to help out, you might add superimposed titles identifying the time and place of the scene.” (Bordwell, Thompson and Smith, 2016: 75). The concept of using intertitles to indicate changes in the linear timeline, harks back to early silent cinema and classical Hollywood cinema, but as I have already discussed this has also been used in contemporary films for example Anna (2019) and Iron Man (2008).

The Notebook movie poster smallIn another case study the film The Notebook (2004), the flashbacks are used to link to past events, the memories of a past forgotten in its entirety by the central character, Allie. Duke, Allie’s husband uses the notebook, from which the film’s title is derived, as a means of misdirection, to be not seen as drawing upon his own memories in the retelling of what is their story that is revealed in the flashbacks. Duke appears to read from his notebook in the hope that Allie will regain her memory of their past life together. In many respects this misdirection works, as Allie believes the story is of a couple unknown to her, an interesting story of young love. That is true until she has a lucid moment and she remembers that Duke is her husband and the story he has been telling her from the notebook, is their own. One of the possible reasons for this filmmaking approach and the use of the flashbacks is to also keep the spectator in suspense of the identity of the young couple in the flashbacks to create a mystery. That is until a point in the film where it becomes clear that they and the young couple from the flashbacks are one and the same. A useful analogy could be derived from Theatre as Hugo Münsterberg the psychologist argues “[u]nderstanding a theatrical performance, for example, relies on our remembering the sequence of scenes that preceded the one that is before us. A character can draw attention to an earlier scene, stage props, lighting and music can also suggest these to us, but the scene itself cannot be directly “replayed” before our eyes. With film, however, things are different. The act of remembering can be screened, so to speak, before our very eyes thanks to the use of flashbacks. (Colman, 2012: 34).

Bibliography

Alexander Pope – The British Library (no date). Available at: https://www.bl.uk/people/alexander-pope (Accessed: 21 June 2020).
Ansell-Pearson, K. (1994) An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker, An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker. Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/cbo9780511606144.
Bordwell, D. (1979) ‘The Art Cinema as a Mode of Film Practice.’, Film Criticism, 4(1), pp. 56–64. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44018650?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents (Accessed: 8 May 2020).
Bordwell, D. (2009) Observations on film art : Grandmaster flashback. Available at: http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2009/01/27/grandmaster-flashback/ (Accessed: 12 March 2020).
Bordwell, D. (2017) Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling.
Bordwell, D., Staiger, J. and Thompson, K. (2002) The classical Hollywood Cinema Film Style & Mode of Production to 1960.
Bordwell, D., Thompson, K. and Smith, J. (2016) Film Art: Creativity, Technology, and Business, Film Art: An Introduction.
Boucher, G. (2019) ‘The Limey’ At 20: Steven Soderbergh Revisits His “Vortex Of Terror” – Deadline. Available at: https://deadline.com/2019/12/steven-soderbergh-looks-back-the-limey-his-personal-vortex-of-terror-1202792732/ (Accessed: 10 February 2020).
Colman, F. (2012) Film, theory and philosophy: The key thinkers, Film, Theory and Philosophy: The Key Thinkers. doi: 10.5860/choice.48-0157.
Fear, D. (2019) Steven Soderbergh on the 20th Anniversary of ‘The Limey’ – Rolling Stone. Available at: https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-features/steven-soderbergh-interview-20th-anniversary-limey-921006/ (Accessed: 5 February 2020).
Geiger, J. and Rutsky, R. . (2005) Film Analysis. A Norton Reader. First. Edited by J. Geiger and R. . Rutsky. W. W. Norton & Company: Inc.
King, G. (2013) What Else Is Lost with Memory Loss? Memory and Identity in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Bright Lights Film Journal. Available at: https://brightlightsfilm.com/what-else-is-lost-with-memory-loss-memory-and-identity-in-eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind/#.XiA2t-LANp9 (Accessed: 16 January 2020).
Landsberg, A. (2004) Prosthetic Memory : The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture. New York: Columbia University Press. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=107227&site=ehost-live&authtype=ip,shib&user=s1523151.
Lopes, M. M., Ncc, I. and Bastos, P. B. (2019) ‘Memory ( Enhancement ) and Cinema : an exploratory creative overview’.
Musgrove, M. (2013) ‘Nestor ’ s Centauromachy and the Deceptive Voice of Poetic Memory ( Ovid Met . 12 . 182-535 ) Author ( s ): Margaret W . Musgrove Reviewed work ( s ): Published by : The University of Chicago Press Stable URL : http://www.jstor.org/stable/270542 . War and’, 93(3), pp. 223–231.
Pramaggiore, M. (2008) Film : a critical introduction. 2nd ed. Edited by T. Wallis. London: Laurence King.
Radstone, S. (2007) ‘Trauma theory: Contexts, politics, ethics’, Paragraph. Edinburgh University Press, 30(1), pp. 9–29. doi: 10.3366/prg.2007.0015.
Radstone, S. (2010) ‘Cinema and memory’, in Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates. Fordham University Press, pp. 325–342.
Rodriguez, E. (2016) Flashback | cinematography and literature | Britannica, Encyclopaedia Britannica. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/art/flashback (Accessed: 3 June 2020).
Salt, B. (1992) Film style and technology : history and analysis. 2nd ed. London: Starword.
Turim, M. (2013) Flashbacks in film: Memory & history, Flashbacks in Film: Memory & History. Taylor and Francis. doi: 10.4324/9781315851761.
Turim, M. C. (2014) Flashbacks in film : Memory & history. Routledge.

 

Flashbacks Chapter One Draft continued part 3

Flashbacks

Flashbacks

Another example of flashbacks as I have mentioned is the telling flashback, an example can be found in the film Still Alice (2014) this is also a flashback where the main protagonist is not recounting the event from memory. Alice a former professor of English is living with early onset Alzheimer’s and her memory of this event is missing. The flashback, a video message from the past, recorded by Alice herself, is a form of telling rather than a prosthetic flashback. The flashback an instructional video on how to commit suicide was created in the past while Alice still had her memories and most of her identity. The video is a message to a future Alice who she fully expected to have significant memory loss as the disease progressed, also to have no memory of recording the video. The film has a scene showing Alice procuring the drugs needed for a suicide earlier in the film and in linear time and the reason for that scene is a revealed later in the flashback. To explain why I believe this example may not constitute a prosthetic memory as although it is delivered in the form of a video from the past that Alice did experience those events depicted in the video flashback even though she has no memory of them. As Professor Alison Landsberg who specialises in mind studies states “Prosthetic memories are adopted as the result of a person’s experience with a mass cultural technology of memory that dramatizes or recreates a history he or she did not live.” (Landsberg, 2004: 4) On this basis and regarding this flashback example it could be argued that this example does not constitute a prosthetic memory. However, this does indicate an interesting area for further research into the link between video and memory, with video being considered another form of memory and on a wider consideration all visual formats could constitute a representation of memory, see chapter 2.

Flashbacks, memory and Identity

There is a feeling of identity loss for the main protagonists in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), each have had significant parts of their memories erased and this is explored in the film through a series of flashbacks. It is also revealed to the spectator in flashback that Mary the clinics secretary in addition to the main protagonists has also had her memory erased, because of a previous relationship with the clinics doctor. Mary quotes Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher and cultural critic, “Blessed are the forgetful for they got the better even of their blunder” (Ansell-Pearson, 1994) and again, this time quoting Alexander Pope, the British poet and translator “How happy is the blameless vessels lot! The world forgot. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” (Alexander Pope – The British Library, no date). The first quote sets the scene to indicate that the erasure of their memories solved all their problems but of course it does appear to not do that at all, in fact they both appear to have major identity issues, having lost part of themselves by having the memories of each other erased. Each of the main protagonist’s seeking for what they have lost, Clementine almost at the edge of madness as she searches her home for what? In the Bright Lights Film Journal an article presented by Gemma King, PhD Student at the Sorbonne, quotes dialogue from the film where Clementine says “I don’t know. I’m lost. I’m scared. I feel like I’m disappearing . . . nothing makes sense to me.” Clementine feels the rupture in the continuity of her experience caused by the erasure, verbalising this as an inexplicable feeling of emptiness and disorientation.” (King, 2013). Flashbacks in the film inform the spectator of their past lives and relationship, these flashbacks of which a significant number concentrate on the memories erased from the protagonist’s minds, memories that are significant in the formation of their identities. Turim states, “[f]lashback films, on the other hand, embed the process by which memory forms the individual and the social group within the narrative.” (Turim, 2014: 143).

In another example of memory loss this time in the film Still Alice (2014) the use of flashbacks are used to reveal how memory loss has also resulted in a loss of Alice’s identity with Alice’s memory losses focussed on the loss of short-term memory. For example, Alice forgets almost immediately conversations she has had with family members but retains long term memories shown by using flashbacks to past events and memories of when she was a child. These flashbacks are revisited time and again of her with her mother, father and sister enjoying a holiday on the beach. These flashbacks are visually triggered through the viewing of photos in a photo album of family members, those of her younger self with her mother and sister. However not all flashbacks are triggered in this way for example, when she is struggling to remember how to tie her shoelaces this action also triggers a flashback sequence and a return to her memories of family time on the beach. These series of flashbacks are significant to the narrative with the return to the memories of family time on the beach, Alice with only the long-term memories remaining her actions and visuals triggering flashbacks to this memory. As the short-term memories fade away and with this, the loss of her identity. Cinema is fascinated with memory as Susannah Radstone a Professor of Cultural Theory at the University of South Australia states “The cinema’s long-standing and intimate relationship with memory is revealed in cinema language’s adoption of terms associated with memory—the ‘‘flashback’’ and the ‘‘fade,’’ (Radstone, 2010: 3).

Alexander Pope – The British Library (no date). Available at: https://www.bl.uk/people/alexander-pope (Accessed: 21 June 2020).
Ansell-Pearson, K. (1994) An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker, An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker. Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/cbo9780511606144.
Bordwell, D. (1979) ‘The Art Cinema as a Mode of Film Practice.’, Film Criticism, 4(1), pp. 56–64. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44018650?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents (Accessed: 8 May 2020).
Bordwell, D. (2009) Observations on film art : Grandmaster flashback. Available at: http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2009/01/27/grandmaster-flashback/ (Accessed: 12 March 2020).
Bordwell, D. (2017) Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling.
Bordwell, D., Staiger, J. and Thompson, K. (2002) The classical Hollywood Cinema Film Style & Mode of Production to 1960.
Bordwell, D., Thompson, K. and Smith, J. (2016) Film Art: Creativity, Technology, and Business, Film Art: An Introduction.
Boucher, G. (2019) ‘The Limey’ At 20: Steven Soderbergh Revisits His “Vortex Of Terror” – Deadline. Available at: https://deadline.com/2019/12/steven-soderbergh-looks-back-the-limey-his-personal-vortex-of-terror-1202792732/ (Accessed: 10 February 2020).
Colman, F. (2012) Film, theory and philosophy: The key thinkers, Film, Theory and Philosophy: The Key Thinkers. doi: 10.5860/choice.48-0157.
Fear, D. (2019) Steven Soderbergh on the 20th Anniversary of ‘The Limey’ – Rolling Stone. Available at: https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-features/steven-soderbergh-interview-20th-anniversary-limey-921006/ (Accessed: 5 February 2020).
Geiger, J. and Rutsky, R. . (2005) Film Analysis. A Norton Reader. First. Edited by J. Geiger and R. . Rutsky. W. W. Norton & Company: Inc.
King, G. (2013) What Else Is Lost with Memory Loss? Memory and Identity in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Bright Lights Film Journal. Available at: https://brightlightsfilm.com/what-else-is-lost-with-memory-loss-memory-and-identity-in-eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind/#.XiA2t-LANp9 (Accessed: 16 January 2020).
Landsberg, A. (2004) Prosthetic Memory : The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture. New York: Columbia University Press. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=107227&site=ehost-live&authtype=ip,shib&user=s1523151.
Lopes, M. M., Ncc, I. and Bastos, P. B. (2019) ‘Memory ( Enhancement ) and Cinema : an exploratory creative overview’.
Musgrove, M. (2013) ‘Nestor ’ s Centauromachy and the Deceptive Voice of Poetic Memory ( Ovid Met . 12 . 182-535 ) Author ( s ): Margaret W . Musgrove Reviewed work ( s ): Published by : The University of Chicago Press Stable URL : http://www.jstor.org/stable/270542 . War and’, 93(3), pp. 223–231.
Pramaggiore, M. (2008) Film : a critical introduction. 2nd ed. Edited by T. Wallis. London: Laurence King.
Radstone, S. (2007) ‘Trauma theory: Contexts, politics, ethics’, Paragraph. Edinburgh University Press, 30(1), pp. 9–29. doi: 10.3366/prg.2007.0015.
Radstone, S. (2010) ‘Cinema and memory’, in Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates. Fordham University Press, pp. 325–342.
Rodriguez, E. (2016) Flashback | cinematography and literature | Britannica, Encyclopaedia Britannica. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/art/flashback (Accessed: 3 June 2020).
Salt, B. (1992) Film style and technology : history and analysis. 2nd ed. London: Starword.
Turim, M. (2013) Flashbacks in film: Memory & history, Flashbacks in Film: Memory & History. Taylor and Francis. doi: 10.4324/9781315851761.
Turim, M. C. (2014) Flashbacks in film : Memory & history. Routledge.

 

Flashbacks Chapter One Draft continued…

alita battle angel

Flashbacks

alita battle angelFlashbacks

A flashback can be a means to inform the spectator about events from a protagonist’s past that influence their future actions in the chronological or linear timeline. Flashbacks can also be used to disseminate knowledge to the spectator of events that the protagonist did not personally experience, the telling flashback.

An example of the telling flashback can also be found in the film Oldboy (2003). In the final sequences of the film the main protagonist Dae-su is led through the sequence of events following his release from incarceration, of his being hypnotised and his actions being controlled by external events. This is delivered through an external or telling flashback the narration of these sequence of past events recounted by Woo-jin, his adversary, and revealed through a series of flashbacks. In addition, the flashbacks involving Mi-do who has also been hypnotised could not have been witnessed by the main protagonist Dae-su or Woo-jin as both was not in attendance. The flashback sequence in question is set in the past and by using a split screen with Woo-jin in one half and the flashback sequence in the other, Woo-jin through his narration describes the scenario in the flashbacks as he understands it through being informed of these events, rather than as a personal memory. However, this example of the flashback appears to conflict with another statement of Bordwell’s “If the film depicts a flashback, the jump back in time can be attributed to a character’s memory; the act of remembering thus motivates the flashback. (Bordwell, Staiger and Thompson, 2002: 30). I suggest that Bordwell meant this statement to be preceded by “typically” as of course there are many examples of flashbacks which are not direct memories of the protagonists particularly in contemporary cinema. Such as the example from Oldboy (2003) where the flashback is not derived from a protagonist’s memory but from the retelling of events by a character not revealed to the spectator. Turim offers another more simple definition of the flashback as, “In its most general sense, a flashback is simply an image or a filmic segment that is understood as representing temporaI occurrences anterior to those in the images that preceded it”. (Turim, 2014: 14). This definition appears to fit with the example above where none of the protagonists were present in the events revealed in the flashback, and therefore a flashback not derived from the protagonist’s memory. Bordwell offers another example of a flashback which may offer an explanation “[a]n alternative is to break with character altogether and present a purely objective or “external” flashback. Here an impersonal narrating authority simply takes us back in time, without justifying the new scene as character memory or as illustration of dialogue” (Bordwell, 2009). Expanding upon this definition using the case study of the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).

This can be a confusing film in many ways, particularly in the use of flashbacks, the spectator does not always receive a classical indication that the sequence is a flashback and where they are in the film’s timeline. However as Bordwell states “Flashbacks usually don’t confuse us, because we mentally rearrange the events into chronological order” (Bordwell, Thompson and Smith, 2016: 80). There is a lack of flashback conventions by this I mean the conventions associated with entering and exiting a flashback sequence are not always present. In addition, there are flashback sequences, memories of events, that as the main protagonist memory has been erased could not have been recounted by the main protagonist from memory. These flashbacks are examples of telling flashbacks where the flashback is used to inform the spectator of events that the main protagonist in this case has himself forgotten through having his memory erased. Another important use of the flashbacks is to add to the confusion of the spectator, the fragmented memory of the protagonist is represented by the out of sequence flashbacks, these sequences of events and in this example taken from the lost memories of the main protagonist. Sometimes a flashback and dream sequence can be interchangeable, Pramaggiore argues that “[i]f the plot requires a flashback or dream sequence, to minimize disruption editors will include an appropriate shot transition, such as a fade or a dissolve. Such transitions ease audiences into the new location and time. An abrupt, inexplicable shift in the time and place of an action which is not “announced” by a transition results in a cut. (Pramaggiore, 2008). Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) transitions from linear time and flashbacks without conventions just cuts and cross cuts, which can be confusing, but can also be representative of the fragmented memories of the main protagonists. As Bordwell states “Scene by scene and moment by moment, flashbacks play a role in pricking our curiosity about what came before, promoting suspense about what will happen next, and enhancing surprise at any moment. (Bordwell, 2009). This opens the definition of a flashback to “a film sequence that is not present in the linear timeline”. A more recent example of the use of flashbacks can be found in the contemporary film Alita (2019) a film, much of which is concerning memory loss of the main protagonist Alita. The missing memories are explored using a series of flashbacks, revisiting long lost memories of a previous life and events, filling those character memory gaps and at the same time informing the spectator of a past life. Alita is unaware of who she is and what was and is her purpose in life. This becomes a key element in the development of the character and the films narrative as Alita embarks on a quest to recover her lost memories and therefore her identity. As Turim states “[s]ome flashbacks directly involve a quest for the answer to an enigma posed in the beginning of a narrative through a return to the past” (Turim, 2013: 24).

In Alita {2019} the flashback sequence is always preceded by an act of violence where her life is in imminent danger, in these life or death struggles the flashback is triggered, in each flashback a forgotten memory is remembered. The use of violence as a trigger for the flashback and a return to a traumatic memory from the past. These flashbacks form a violent/traumatic interruption in the chronology and linear continuity of a film. The flashback in cinematic terms, is achieved by the camera zooming into one of Alita’s eyes passing through into what becomes a portal to a forgotten memory and previous life as the image flashes to white, the flash then cross dissolving into the start of the flashback sequence. This is a classical form and use of the flashback sequence, using the conventions of both visual and sound cues to enter and exit the flashback sequence. Pramaggiore a film theorist argues that “The most common example of [re-ordered chronology in a film’s plot] is the flashback, when events taking place in the present are ‘interrupted’ by images or scenes that have taken place in the past.” (Pramaggiore, 2008: 244).

Bibliography

Alexander Pope – The British Library (no date). Available at: https://www.bl.uk/people/alexander-pope (Accessed: 21 June 2020).
Ansell-Pearson, K. (1994) An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker, An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker. Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/cbo9780511606144.
Bordwell, D. (1979) ‘The Art Cinema as a Mode of Film Practice.’, Film Criticism, 4(1), pp. 56–64. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44018650?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents (Accessed: 8 May 2020).
Bordwell, D. (2009) Observations on film art : Grandmaster flashback. Available at: http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2009/01/27/grandmaster-flashback/ (Accessed: 12 March 2020).
Bordwell, D. (2017) Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling.
Bordwell, D., Staiger, J. and Thompson, K. (2002) The classical Hollywood Cinema Film Style & Mode of Production to 1960.
Bordwell, D., Thompson, K. and Smith, J. (2016) Film Art: Creativity, Technology, and Business, Film Art: An Introduction.
Boucher, G. (2019) ‘The Limey’ At 20: Steven Soderbergh Revisits His “Vortex Of Terror” – Deadline. Available at: https://deadline.com/2019/12/steven-soderbergh-looks-back-the-limey-his-personal-vortex-of-terror-1202792732/ (Accessed: 10 February 2020).
Colman, F. (2012) Film, theory and philosophy: The key thinkers, Film, Theory and Philosophy: The Key Thinkers. doi: 10.5860/choice.48-0157.
Fear, D. (2019) Steven Soderbergh on the 20th Anniversary of ‘The Limey’ – Rolling Stone. Available at: https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-features/steven-soderbergh-interview-20th-anniversary-limey-921006/ (Accessed: 5 February 2020).
Geiger, J. and Rutsky, R. . (2005) Film Analysis. A Norton Reader. First. Edited by J. Geiger and R. . Rutsky. W. W. Norton & Company: Inc.
King, G. (2013) What Else Is Lost with Memory Loss? Memory and Identity in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Bright Lights Film Journal. Available at: https://brightlightsfilm.com/what-else-is-lost-with-memory-loss-memory-and-identity-in-eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind/#.XiA2t-LANp9 (Accessed: 16 January 2020).
Landsberg, A. (2004) Prosthetic Memory : The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture. New York: Columbia University Press. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=107227&site=ehost-live&authtype=ip,shib&user=s1523151.
Lopes, M. M., Ncc, I. and Bastos, P. B. (2019) ‘Memory ( Enhancement ) and Cinema : an exploratory creative overview’.
Musgrove, M. (2013) ‘Nestor ’ s Centauromachy and the Deceptive Voice of Poetic Memory ( Ovid Met . 12 . 182-535 ) Author ( s ): Margaret W . Musgrove Reviewed work ( s ): Published by : The University of Chicago Press Stable URL : http://www.jstor.org/stable/270542 . War and’, 93(3), pp. 223–231.
Pramaggiore, M. (2008) Film : a critical introduction. 2nd ed. Edited by T. Wallis. London: Laurence King.
Radstone, S. (2007) ‘Trauma theory: Contexts, politics, ethics’, Paragraph. Edinburgh University Press, 30(1), pp. 9–29. doi: 10.3366/prg.2007.0015.
Radstone, S. (2010) ‘Cinema and memory’, in Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates. Fordham University Press, pp. 325–342.
Rodriguez, E. (2016) Flashback | cinematography and literature | Britannica, Encyclopaedia Britannica. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/art/flashback (Accessed: 3 June 2020).
Salt, B. (1992) Film style and technology : history and analysis. 2nd ed. London: Starword.
Turim, M. (2013) Flashbacks in film: Memory & history, Flashbacks in Film: Memory & History. Taylor and Francis. doi: 10.4324/9781315851761.
Turim, M. C. (2014) Flashbacks in film : Memory & history. Routledge.