Flashbacks Chapter One Draft continued part 3



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).

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