Thesis: Memory Conceptualisation in Film:


Introduction: Thesis

In cinema, memory occupies a central role as a thematic and narrative device, profoundly influencing the viewer’s understanding and emotional engagement with the film. Memory in film is not confined to a mere reflection of the past; rather, it assumes a dynamic role, shaping the characters, their relationships, and the overall narrative structure. This thesis aims to delve into the multifaceted conceptualisation of memory in film, focusing on key elements such as flashbacks, prosthetic memory, brainwashing, collective memory, cultural memory, and experimental film practice.

Flashbacks, as a prominent technique in filmmaking, offer a powerful tool for conveying characters’ past experiences, creating a temporal bridge between past and present. These narrative devices enable filmmakers to explore the intricacies of memory, representing subjective recollections and highlighting their influence on character development.

Prosthetic memory examines how external objects or technologies serve as extensions of human memory, blurring the boundaries between personal and artificial recollections. Films often employ such devices, ranging from photographs and diaries to digital recordings and virtual reality simulations, to delve into the complexities of memory and its fragile nature.

Brainwashing in film reveals the dark side of memory manipulation, illustrating how individuals or societies can be subjected to intentional alteration or erasure of their memories. These cinematic portrayals provide a platform to analyze the ethical implications and psychological consequences of memory control.

Collective memory and cultural memory in film uncover the collective consciousness of a community or nation, showcasing how shared memories shape identity, history, and the understanding of the present. Cinema becomes a potent medium for examining the collective past and fostering a dialogue about cultural heritage and its preservation.

Lastly, this thesis explores experimental film practice, which challenges traditional cinematic conventions and perception of time. Experimental filmmakers employ innovative techniques to disrupt linear narratives and evoke a visceral response from the viewer, often blurring the boundaries between memory and imagination.

By examining these elements, this thesis intends to shed light on the intricate relationship between memory and film, exploring how these concepts intertwine to create compelling narratives, foster emotional connections, and provoke profound reflections on the nature of human memory and its representation in cinema.

Abstract Collective Memory and Cultural Memory

Abstract – Prosthetic Memory

Abstract – Flashbacks and Memory

Abstract Collective Memory and Cultural Memory

The Limey Wilson in car scene

Collective Memory and Cultural Memory

The Island – Clones with a Collective Memory of the World’s Apocalypse and Prosthetic memories of a life they never lived.

This chapter explores the concept of collective memory and its relationship to prosthetic memory and cultural memory. It challenges Susan Sontag’s argument that collective memory is not about remembering but rather about stipulating importance and constructing narratives. The discussion draws upon the definition proposed by Halbwachs, who suggests that collective memory relies on individuals recalling events from the viewpoint of their social groups.

The narrational nature of collective memory is highlighted, emphasizing its structured and familiar cultural patterns. The definition of collective memory is expanded to include shared memories among social groups, such as cinema audiences. Halbwachs’ notion of collective memory as a reconstruction of the past in light of the present is discussed, emphasizing the influence of social frameworks on individual recollections.

Maurice Halbwachs is credited as the pioneer of collective memory research, arguing that personal memories are filtered through collective and social memories.

The unreliable nature of collective memories is examined, as they are often formed through narratives and influenced by various sources. The chapter also mentions the broader focus in contemporary memory studies on historical, social, cultural, and popular memory. The concept of collective memory is seen as a collection of memories formed by individuals, cultures, and within social domains, including cultural and nationalistic perspectives.

Abstract – Prosthetic Memory

Abstract – Prosthetic Memory

The Matrix

Prosthetic Memory

Blade Runner 2049
Blade Runner 2049

This chapter’s introduction explores the concept of prosthetic memory, which refers to memories that are formed through the action of mass media, such as cinema and film, and which are not directly experienced by the spectator. The author adopts Alison Landsberg’s theory of prosthetic memory and expands upon it by critically analyzing films that feature examples of prosthetic memory. The chapter explores the relationship between memory, identity, and artificial life, and also addresses brainwashing in films from the cold war era as another form of prosthetic memory. The author also identifies the limitations of the available terminology to define the diversity of representations of prosthetic memories. The chapter provides examples of prosthetic memory in science fiction films, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Oblivion, which explore both prosthetic and genetic memories. The author argues that science fiction films provide a rich source of examples of prosthetic memory, which challenge and negotiate the concepts of memory and identity in a variety of sub-genres, such as Cyberpunk and Biopunk.


Abstract – Flashbacks and Memory

Brainwashing dutch angle


This chapter provides an overview of the flashback in cinema, including its definition and functions. It also explores the history of the flashback in cinema, tracing its origins in classical literature and discussing its early use in cinema. The chapter explains the different forms of flashbacks, including memory flashbacks and external flashbacks, and considers their use in creating meaning and emotion in film. It also provides various definitions of the flashback, highlighting the importance of the flashback in filmic form and its role in engaging with historical concepts and representing ideas. The chapter concludes by noting that, while flashbacks were used sparingly in classical Hollywood cinema, they have become a common feature of contemporary cinema.

Abstract for a Film Practice


The article discusses the author’s transition in their film practice from a feature-length documentary on dementia to creating experimental films on memory due to the pandemic’s limitations. The concept of experimental film and its definition by film scholars A.L. Rees and P. Adams Sitney are explored, with both emphasizing its challenging of mainstream narrative conventions and exploration of film as a medium. The article also touches on the avant-garde and art movements that influence experimental film and how it is presented at film festivals and museums. Finally, Sitney’s quote about the camera, circle, and film speaks to the idea that film has no inherent meaning until a narrative is attributed to it, particularly in the case of experimental films that often lack a traditional script.