Memory loss, erasure and representation in flashback



Flashback a narrative device

The critical analysis of a selection of films that have memory loss or memory erasure as a core theme with the use, by the directors of flashbacks to reconnect the character/narrative and therefore the audience to these memories created in a previous timeline. Films use flashbacks to reconnect to the past, for lost or forgotten memories it is a common technique used by directors to add more information, background and detail to a character and to the narrative, usually there is some visual clue associated with these flashback scenes, which Susan Hayward defines as “A narrative device used in film (as in literature) to go back in time to an earlier moment in a character’s life and/or history, and to narrate that moment. Flashbacks, then, are most clearly marked as subjective moments within that narrative. Flashbacks are a cinematic representation of memory and of history and, ultimately, of subjective truth.” (Hayward, 1996). The flashback sequences may become misty or blurred to indicate this is a memory flashback, some use a rewind visual, by which I mean the film appears to rewind like a tape machine/DVD player to an earlier time and memory, then when the time in the past is reached plays back in real time. There are many other ways of revealing past or forgotten memories and in some circumstances, it may just be an object that represents and triggers a past memory for example a photograph. Flashbacks in film are not a new idea as Pramaggiore, Wallis and Kilbourn state “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. Typically, filmmakers give audiences a visual cue, such as a dissolve or fade, to clarify that the narrative is making a sudden shift in chronology. [ . . . ] Usually the flashback is motivated by the plot, as when a character any of the narrators in Citizen Kane, for example—recalls a memory. Flashbacks typically emphasize important causal factors in a film’s fabula [story]. [ . . . ] Editing also allows filmmakers to reveal a character’s dreams or fantasies. Like a flashback, a dream is usually signalled by a shot transition that indicates the boundary between reality and fantasy.” (Pramaggiore and Wallis, 2008) (Kilbourn, 2013)

Films and the conceptualisation of memory in flashback

  • Alita: Battle Angel (Robert Rodriguez. 2019)
  • Bourne Identity: (Doug Liman. 2002)
  • Ghost in the Shell (Rupert Sanders. 2017)

Alita is a confusing film, the narrative is familiar and initially the audience may be thinking, is this a film for children? In what appears to be another representation of a dystopian future, a broken world recovering from war, this time an interplanetary war with Mars, The Fall, the broken remains of the cyborg battle angel, Alita is salvaged from the detritus discarded and piled high below a futuristic city called Zalem hovering above the ruins of the Iron city. A film for children it is not, or at least 12+ and followers of Anime, but it is also a film for adults, it has some of the elements of the Transformers films, themselves based on children’s toys and television programs of the same name. The character designs are familiar, a melange of many styles from films of the Science Fiction genre. The narrative shares some elements of several films not only from the science fiction genre, for example there are many similarities with the Bourne Trilogy, by this I mean an agent, in this case Alita, a cyborg with no memory of her past or previous identity, as in Bourne Identity (2002), Bourne also designed to be a weapon an asset, albeit in Alita’s case from a distant past, with a long forgotten mission. The loss of memory in itself also creates a loss of identity, Alita does not know who she is and what her purpose in life is. This becomes a key element in the development of the narrative as Alita embarks on a new mission and seeks to recover her memories and therefore a new identity. There are visual references to the film Avatar in the production design, you can see and feel David Cameron’s hand in this production, the oversize eyes of Alita sharing a similarity to the ‘Na Vi’ in Avatar. But this is a story as much as anything about memory loss and initially it appears after reconstruction that Alita’s memory loss is complete until we see in a memory flashback, memories of a military past (combat on the moon scene), the memory appeared to be triggered by violent action, when attacked and there is risk to life, Alita instinctively assumes a fighting stance and defeats her father’s attackers, that is Dr Dyson Ido.

Alita is determined to learn more of her past and forms a plan of action to enter the ultra-violent cyborg games, Motorball, which appears to be a virtual copy of Rollerball (1975) but for cyborgs. Actually, the film appears to borrow ideas and narratives from several other films, for example, the street scenes in the Iron city reminds me of the films Fifth Element (1997) and the more recent film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) both by the director Luc Besson. Perhaps David Cameron is a fan of Luc Besson’s films? The film Alita: Battle Angel (2019) had mixed reviews but is the first film to come out of Lightstorm Entertainment, the studio set up by David Cameron and the first film to capitalise on the visual technology and expertise of the special effects created for the production of Avatar (2014) and while there can be no doubting the excellence of these visual effects, the narrative is relatively weak, seemingly borrowed from several films. This is not a new issue as that was also identified in the Avatar (2009) narrative, directed by James Cameron, which performed exceptionally well at the box office but failed to impress critics due in part to the screenplay, which many considered a rewrite of the story of Pocahontas, personally I felt this was an oversimplification, as in any narrative that has at its core the idea of an advanced civilisation making contact with a less advanced civilisation would come into this category.

Ghost in the Shell (2017) This film, a live action version of the anime film also called Ghost in the Shell (1995) shares much with Alita: Battle Angel (2019) for example the main protagonist, Major Mira Killian is also a cyborg with no memory of her previous life, she only has memories from the time that she was first awakened as a cyborg, her life as a human is blank with the exception of the false memories created by the  Hanka scientists who inserted a cover memory for a past she never had, the memory of losing her parents in a terrorist attack and leaving her body badly injured and only her brain surviving the attack. The brain living on in a mechanical body, which is called a shell, hence the title of the film Ghost in the Shell. Major experiences random memories as flashbacks In what appears, and are described by the Hanka scientists as glitches in her program, Major sees images of locations and objects flash into and out of existence, but rather than glitches in her program these are true memories from her past that are leaking through the chemically induced memory blocks created by the Hanka scientists, these are real memory flashbacks to her life before becoming a cyborg. The flashbacks appear randomly throughout the film, unlike other films using flashbacks there appears to be no obvious triggers, the only clue being the visuals, the glitching images, pixilation and colours to indicate these are flashback memories. Killian (Major) is captured by Kuze who connects her to his network but then releases her, at this point she sees the image of the shrine the one from her flashbacks on his chest linking Kuze to Killian. Kuze reveals he was also a product of the project 2571, a failure, one of 98 and now seeking revenge for what they did to him. Killian returns to confront Dr Oulet who is under orders from Cutter to terminate Killian, but instead Dr Oulet disobeys and instead gives Killian an address to go to and rekindle her lost memories. Dr Oulet pays for this disloyalty and is killed by Cutter. Killian steals a motorcycle and goes to the address where she finds the shrine that appears in all her flashbacks, she flashes back to the start of it all, images of Cutter and his men attacking and dragging away the children, runaways for use in their experiment’s to create the perfect cyborg. This is Killian’s beginning, not a survivor of a cyber terrorist attack but abducted by Cutter for his experiments at Hanka. Kuze joins her at the shrine and he reveals her real name as Motoko Kusanagi, that they were friends and abducted together. (Opam, 2017)

The director’s approach to the use of flashbacks differs from other films that employ them by having or seemingly not having specific triggers to initiate the flashback scenes. However, the audience is aware that they are watching a flashback as cinematographically the images are glitchy like a corrupted data file with some of the data missing creating an imperfect image that breaks up as it progresses. In addition, there is specific reference to identity not being linked to memories Killian (Mokoto) narrates in the final scene “My mind is human. My body is manufactured. I am the first of my kind, but I won’t be the last. We cling to memories as if they define us, but what we do defines us. My ghost survived to remind the next of us that humanity is our virtue. I know who I am, and what I’m here to do.” (Anon, 2017) There are other similar references to identity throughout the movie and how memories do not define us.

Comparing memory erasure and memory loss in flashback.

  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004).
  • Still Alice (Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. 2014).

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2014) this can be a confusing film in many ways but it the case of flashbacks the audience does not always get an obvious indication or what the trigger is or of where they are in the films timeline, whether they are watching in real time or a memory in a Flashback sequence and in many cases the only way of identifying whether this is a memory or real time is by working out where this sequence fits into the he narrative of the film. However, the scenes where Joel (played by Jim Carrey) appears seemingly to be in real time on valentine’s day in the bookshop where Joel confronts Clementine (played by Kate Winslet) is confusing is this real time or a flashback? Clementine in this scene appears to have no memory of their relationship and also appears to be involved in a new relationship with a character hidden from sight (who we later learn is Patrick played by Elijah Wood). However the Director then uses the lighting in the bookshop to represent and indicate this scene is actually a flashback by turning the lights off in sequence and as they follow Joel as he appears to leave the bookshop but actually appears to go directly into another memory this time he is talking to his friends in their home, and this is where he learns Clementine has had her memory erased of him by seeing the card from Lacuna. I concur, the sequence of Joel in the bookshop was also a flashback but there was no indication beforehand, but this explanation seems to fit into the timeline. It is at this point where Joel learns of Clementine’s decision to erase him from her memory and so Joel decides to do the same.

Joel having now decided to also get his memory erased of all memories of Clementine, he also goes to Lacuna Inc (The memory erasure clinic on the card and whose name means ‘space’ or ‘gap’) where he meets Howard the doctor (played by Tom Wilkinson) who tells Joel to collect and return with everything associated with Clementine so that they can track his memories of her, it is here where we see Joel rip pages from his journal, which appeared to be missing in the opening scene but where he has no memory of who ripped out those pages and seems to think this is the first entry in his journal in 2 months. Also in this scene we learn that their first meeting was actually at a beach party organised by their soon to be mutual friends the Eakin’s, rather than in the opening scene of the chance meeting in a diner close to the Montauk railway station that Joel seemingly decided to travel to randomly skipping work that day after an angry discovery of apparently seeing his damaged car for the first time that morning. The car was in fact damaged by Clementine, driving into a fire hydrant while drunk, which Joel, because of his memory erasure has no memory of and he just decided it was caused by the driver of the car parked next to his that morning, he left a note on the windshield to that effect.

We have two scenes each seemingly showing Joel’s and Clementine’s first meeting, firstly at the beach party and secondly over coffee at the diner. So we could assume that the memory erasure was not totally successful as they began to rekindle their relationship at the diner, so again we could infer that rather than what could have been love at first sight, they actually had some memory of their past relationship on a subconscious level. At Clementine’s instigation, during a conversation on the train, where she says she knows him from somewhere, from this they started the relationship again. In the scene while waiting for Clementine to retrieve her toothbrush Joel appears to have an identity crisis probably caused by the memory erasures, which is interrupted by a knock on his car window by Patrick, who Joel has no memory of, and so the conversation appears to make no sense to Joel and to the audience but of course we learn later that Patrick through his work at the memory erasure clinic has obtained Joel’s information on Clementine, which he uses to assume some elements of Joel’s identity in his pursuit of Clementine affections and so Patrick was concerned to see Joel parked outside her home.

As we are returned to the clinic in flashback where Joel is undertaking the erasure procedure, each memory tracked and erased as each object is presented, which then flashes red on screen as they are erased along with the memory associated with them, we experience a fast sequence of events in a serious of scenes of the locations and memory associations, one of which includes the memory of Clementine returning home drunk one evening having crashed the car, which initiates the breakup. This in turn becomes a memory loop to which Joel has no escape until his memory is erased, as Joel chases Clementine in the damaged car, then follows on foot, he sees his car stopped at both ends of the same street and whatever direction he walks he is confronted by the damaged car. This is a confusing film in many respects the timeline follows no order and so having returned to the scene during the erasure procedure, Joel hears Stan (played by Mark Ruffolo) and Patrick talking about Patricks new girlfriend, which we know or suspect is Clementine and so the face Joel could not see in the book shop flashback is Patrick’s. As Joel’s memory is eventually erased, having tried to force himself with Clementine’s assistance to wake up using Joel’s memories including a scene where Joel’s uses his childhood memories to try and save his memory of her, Clementine says they should meet back at Montauk where they first met and this is how they both knew to meet there subconsciously in the future, both after having their memories erased. Well I’m not sure how they both subconsciously knew to meet there, as we are only witnesses to Joel’s memory erasure, so how did Clementine know, or have reason to go to Montauk that day? Mary the clinics secretary, who we learn later has also had her memory erased because of a previous relationship with Howard, quotes Friedrich Nietzsch “Blessed are the forgetful for they got the better even of their blunder” and again this time Alexander Pope “How happy is the blameless vessels lot! The world forgot. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” The first quote appears to indicate that the erasure of their memories solves all their problems but of course it does 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 looking for what they have lost, Clementine almost at the edge of madness as she searches her home for what? In the article by Gemma King “I don’t know. I’m lost. I’m scared. I feel like I’m disappearing . . . nothing makes sense to me.” It is clear that 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), perhaps she is searching for something to centre her identity, clues about her identity, lost following the erasure. The second quote referring to a happiness that neither feels as they seek their lost identities and attempt to rebuild them by regaining the erased memories, while also giving context and title to the film. It is at the flat that Clementine receives a letter from Mary with details and audio tape of her memory erasure which Clementine plays in Joel’s car stereo, which reveals all to Joel and causes another breakup. However, Clementine follows Joel to his home where he is listening to his audio recording of his memory erasure, which also reveals his reasons for having his memory wiped. Clementine appears to regret her decision for erasing Joel from her memory as does Joel and the film ends but is the final sequence of them together in the snow a future memory or is this another flashback and they are still listening to Joel’s audio tape in his home?

Still Alice (2014). Alice (played by Julianne Moore) a Professor at Columbia University is having minor memory problems starting with a mind blank during a lecture, she is lost for a word. As the film progresses the memory lapses become more prevalent at one point during a run, she becomes disorientated and doesn’t appear to know where she is or which direction to go. This is a very different approach in direction to that of the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) the conceptualisation of memory loss is more random in Still Alice and includes memory loss of words, places and people rather than the selective amnesia of Joel’s memories of Clementine. Alice having been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s and at a relatively young age, the doctor says the disease will progress rapidly, which we see in the film’s timeline, as the memory losses appear to become more frequent. Alice worries that as the memory loss increases, she will lose more and more of her identity, which sets in motion the plan to end her life before all of her identity is gone, as in the title Still Alice, will this remain true after all the memories have been ripped away? The film draws the audience’s attention to what memories are lost, concentrating on the loss of short-term memory as Alice forgets almost immediately conversations with family members when compared with the sequences of long-term memory by using flashbacks to memories of when she was a child, with her mother, father and sister enjoying the beach. These flashbacks are triggered by a photo album with photos of herself with her mother and sister but also when she is struggling to remember how to tie her shoelaces we return via flashback to her memories of family on the beach.

Generally this is bleak film chronicling Alice’s loss of memory along with her identity as a highly educated mother and wife is gradually ripped away, leaving her to struggle with less and less of her memories, but there are lighter moments, when she jokes about not remembering what she and her daughter were arguing about the next day.

Alice uses her mobile phone as a prosthetic memory, scheduling appointments and family get togethers, while also setting herself questions that she must answer every day, a test of memory that should she fail directs her to a video with directions on how she has planned her suicide. Later in the film Alice finds this video by mistake and literally follows the video directions, not seemingly understanding what she is doing and only a moment of clumsiness prevents her from going through with the suicide instructions, as she drops the sleeping pills on the floor and immediately forgets what she was doing or why she was there. As the disease progresses the memory loss is extensive even to the point where she has difficulty speaking to her daughter about the screenplay, she had just read to her, but Alice says just one word ‘Love’. The memory loss in Still Alice is progressive and the use of flashbacks is limited to just those few already mentioned and restricted to revisiting long term memories of Alice’s childhood, the short term memories are gone and the use of flashback would not have had the same impact as they had in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as Joel was reclaiming memories erased while Alice’s short-term memories are gone forever.

Video messages from the past, another form of flashback in time, rolling the clock back to a forgotten memory. In Still Alice the suicide video created in the past while Alice still has her memories and identity, a message to a future Alice who she expects to no longer have a memory of recording the video and the reasons behind it. A form of prosthetic memory for Alice who has lost so much of her memories and identity in such a short time. Total Recall used a similar technique for Hauser who is also Quaid to inform a future Quaid who has no memory of his alternative past of what his mission is.


Flashbacks and triggers

In Alita, the flashback sequence is preceded by an act of violence where her life is in imminent danger, in this life or death struggle the flashback is triggered. In cinematic terms this is achieved by the camera zooming into one of Alita’s eyes and then the image fades to white, the fade then dissolving to the start of the memory sequence. Alita’s like Bourne’s flashbacks are triggered by violence but in the Bourne films not all flashbacks are triggered by violence, objects and visual clues also initialised flashbacks. As Bourne holds a gun to a woman’s head, he suddenly flashbacks to another mission, a woman in another time and place speaking Russian as he points his gun at her. In the films throughout the trilogy he flashbacks in his dreams and he adds these memories to a notebook, which has effectively become a prosthetic memory, listing the locations and times, details of missions that he no longer has memory of. Some films do not employ triggers for instance Ghost in the Shell (2017), the flashbacks appear randomly which is also true of some of the flashbacks employed in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) creating this confusion of are we watching a live scene or a memory in flashback.

This leads to a wider consideration of what triggers film directors use to indicate and initiate flashbacks, it appears that almost anything could be a trigger, which allows a director the complete freedom to add more detail to a character or the storyline at any time. As Maureen Turim states in her work on the use of flashbacks in film, “The flashback is particularly interesting to theoretical conceptualization of film. The flashback is a privileged moment in unfolding that juxtaposes different moments of temporal reference. A juncture is wrought between present and past and two concepts are implied in this juncture: memory and history. Studying the flashback is not only a way of studying the development of filmic form, it is a way of seeing how filmic forms engage concepts and represent ideas.” (Turim, 2013)



Anon (2017) Ghost in the Shell (2017) – Quotes – IMDb. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2020).

Hayward, S. (1996) Key concepts in cinema studies. London ; New York: Routledge.

Kilbourn, R. J. A. (2013) Cinema, memory, modernity: The representation of memory from the art film to transnational cinema, Cinema, Memory, Modernity: The Representation of Memory from the Art Film to Transnational Cinema. doi: 10.4324/9781315888606.

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: (Accessed: 16 January 2020).

Opam, K. (2017) Ghost in the Shell review: a solid film built on a broken foundation – The Verge. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2020).

Pramaggiore, M. and Wallis, T. (2008) Film : a critical introduction. 2nd ed. Edited by T. Wallis. London: Laurence King.

Turim, M. (2013) Flashbacks in film: Memory & history, Flashbacks in Film: Memory & History. Taylor and Francis. doi: 10.4324/9781315851761.

Week 11, 13th Jan to 17th Jan 2020

First week back from the Christmas Holidays.

Arrived back on Wednesday, fastest drive so far about 4 hours 30 minutes to get to campus from Bournemouth, but still a long journey.

Started to write the outline for a critical film review, comparing the classic film Oscar winning film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and the Oscar winning film Still Alice (2017). The conceptualisation of memory and memory erasure using flashbacks to reconnect to lost memories.

Having written the outline I realised that flashbacks are a key tool in the filmmakers and writers toolbox and wondered how far I could explore this in films on memory loss and memory erasures. So my essay is now focused on films using flashbacks, the triggers and cinematic approaches directors use to initiate and represent past memories in the timelines.

Week 9, December 2nd to December 6th

The Bay Dementia Hub

Strike Action

No seminars this week due to UCU action

Literary Review

The accumulation of literary resources continues, sometimes I think I am building a library rather than conducting a review. At the moment the challenge is to input all my references and quotations into qualitative data analysis software. Unfortunately I still have to decide which option to choose, so I am repeating work by adding new data, to both Atlas.ti and NVivo, the same with the bibliography apps, Mendeley and Endnote, at some point I’ll have to commit to one or the other, or should I?

During my research, mainly online, I identified a good resource of information in the form of an eBook The Routledge Companion to New Cinema History (2019) and added a few others to the ever growing list of Journals and eBooks.

Biltereyst, D., Maltby, R., & Meers, P. (Eds.). (2019). The routledge companion to new cinema history. Retrieved from

Meeting at the Bay Dementia Hub

This is a monthly event held on the first Friday of each month alternating between a venue in Morecambe and Lancaster.

A place for people and their carers living with dementia can meet and get advice from a number of organisations.

Today I met with Penny who introduced me to Boris Segal who looks after the photography and video production for the dementia hub. Boris turned out to be a mine of information on local cinemas, many of which no longer exist.

I also met with a few people in the early stages of living with dementia who I generally asked about their cinema going experiences. One stood out, remembering a recent James Bond movie they had seen with the character Odd Job in it (Goldfinger 1964) and who they met at a function soon after.

Briefly met with the Mayor of Lancaster, David Whitaker a supporter of the Dementia Hub who expressed interest in my film proposal. I will keep in touch with David to discuss permissions to film in locations around Lancaster in the future. There are many interesting landmarks and buildings which I would like to feature in my films.

Touched base with Gil Graystone, Inclusive Film & Theatre Officer from the Dukes, she confirmed that she will also be at my meeting with Helen on the 16th December.

So, what did I achieve at this meeting?
◦ Identified a group of potential participants for my film
◦ Increased my Network of contacts
◦ Showed my face, which means while people do not know me, I am now a familiar face, and people who saw me interact with people they know and people who run the Dementia Hub (Soon to be renamed) will be easier to approach in the future.

Film Festival Update

My idea of creating a film festival for MAC Clinical Services has been passed upwards in the organisation for approval, which Penny thinks is likely to happen.

Watch this space for further updates.

Week 8, Nov 25th to 28th Nov – Atlas.ti and other things

Butterfly House Williamson Park Lancaster

Atlas.ti and other things

Strike Action

No seminars this week or next due to the UCU strike action, which is a shame as the FASS510 Interviewing in Qualitative Research – I & II would have been helpful as I will be conducting interviews for the documentary film. Fortunately, I will have the opportunity to take these again in the new year.

Atlas.ti and NVivo

So, for this week I concentrated on my reading and learning how to use the Qualitative Analysis applications, Atlas.ti and NVivo. I had already decided that I would most probably go with Atlas.ti but the more I use it the less it appeals. The user interface is not as friendly as I would like and the screen gets too busy with small text for me to view on a MacBook Pro’s 15” screen, so either I get a much larger screen to work on or consider using NVivo? NVivo seems to have a improved layout compared to Atlas.ti but I’m not sure if it is as powerful as Atlas.ti, this is going to be a work in progress for a while as I plan to run them together until a clear winner presents itself.

Supervisor meeting, 26th

Key points

1. Think about the style of your Documentary, will you be a participant?
2. Consider how using someone to act as the interviewer in the film, as they may become the most important part of the film and may influence how the film is produced.
3. Instead of using a go between (which is required by the venue) the best answer maybe to just become someone they know through attending several screenings a visitor who also makes films. Take time to get to know your subjects.
4. My synopsis for the 2nd film looks promising, maybe instead of a 2nd film it could find a place in the documentary so that the documentary has an experimental element to it.
5. Take the list of memory sequences in the experimental film and use these as questions in the documentary – ask people living with dementia about their dreams?
6. Look again at my proposal for funding and simplify it and make it more readable for people outside of the subject area. Explain (collective, cultural, new media) memory in simpler terms.
7. Reading list is progressing, and it is good that I am using a referencing software tool (Mendeley and Endnote).
8. Write short notes against your references to explain why it is important and why you have selected it.
9. Continue working and reading for the 2 set questions and think about how the written thesis and practical element will come together.
10. The competition details I received from is worth pursuing and would be a perfect opportunity for students.
11. Regarding the recent contact showing interest in having me make a film for an external charity, I will keep in contact with them and suggest my idea of creating a film festival and competition instead with the winner’s film as the film they could use for their charitable work.

Some interesting ideas came out of this weeks supervisor meeting, one of the best and the more I think about the more I like the idea is to try and incorporate my idea for the standalone experimental film into the documentary film. This would be unexpected and would add an interesting new way of looking at the documentary film format. Of course, I can always edit several versions so there could be films with and without the experimental film footage but as I said the more, I think about this the more attractive it seems.

Research and Reflection

Week 7, 18th November to November 22nd

FASS510 Engaging Data: Document Analysis +QR Analysis Final few weeks of the module in Qualitative data analysis. This seminar summarises a lot of what we were introduced to in the preceding seminars. I’ve been cherry picking what I think would be relevant to my projects, but I know think I should progress the project a little further before making actual decisions for example, induction or deduction?

Referencing software, Endnote or Mendeley? luckily I have access to both at Lancaster University so I have installed them both and integrated them into Word. I’ve been using them both simultaneously and think Endnote is the more powerful bu Mendeley is the most user friendly. I think at this time that I personally prefer Mendeley  and will use this going forward. However I’m not going to uninstall Endnote yet as it has a very useful search function and you can export citations directly from Onesearch. Mendeley also has a good search and you can add a export to Mendeley plugin to Opera and Chrome Browsers.

Documentary Film Pre-production: I have arranged to meet a professional actor to front my film, acting as the interviewer with  the people living with dementia screenings. I’m happy to pay a professional actor even though my budget is very small, but maybe I will consider running a campaign to raise funds for the film.

Research and Reflection

research and reflection

It’s been 7 weeks since I started my PhD at Lancaster University so I thought it was time to write something other than the weekly diary and transcripts from meetings and the odd few thousand words on film theory.

Research and Reflection (7 weeks in)

Those weeks have passed quickly and lots of things have happened. I have brought forward the research for the documentary (see here) and have spoken to a  number of groups and people that I think would be ideal participants in the film. The other good news is that I have had a lot of interest and now have a green light to go to the next stage, that is filming, with a number of caveats. Time is always an issue on one hand I am wishing time away so that I can get on with the filming while trying to slow things down so that I can concentrate on the literary review and getting up to speed with some of the software I will be using.

Endnote: This is my first time using this particular program to create a bibliography, up to now I’ve always done this manually from my notes, but I felt now was the time to embrace this technology as the thesis will be a much more substantial document to anything that I have written before. I’ve just spent a few minutes watching some online tutorials and importing my first pdf documents. On reflection I should have used this software before, as this also helps with searching and locating relevant literary sources for my research, which is something I really wasn’t aware of before.

Atlas.ti I’ve also looked at and had a one to one tutorial on the Qualitative Analysis application Atlas.ti, it is a very powerful software tool but I do have a few reservations about committing to using this. I’m worried about how much time this will eat up when adding the data to it and I am uncertain of how useful the data analysis would be over just doing it myself manually. I think I am more confused about this software now than I was before doing the training, it seemed like a no brainer until I realised how much time this could take up.

Research Question: If you’ve followed my weekly diary you’ll know that after a few meeting now with my supervisors there has been a change in direction/focus for my research. Just this week I have dropped the original research question and formed another that seems to be a better fit with the new direction of my research, but I suspect this to remain fluid for some time.

Literary Review: My goto book ‘An Everyday Magic, Cinema and Cultural Memory by Annette Kuhn is central to my research. I’ve read chapters 1 – Cinema Memory as Cultural Memory, Chapter 2 –  The Scenes of Memory and Chapter 5 – Growing up with Cinema. I can see how my film could be made to become an updated version of this book and it has certainly influenced my change in focus for my research and my plans for the film.

Memory in Film: I’ve watched a number of films recently. The BBC Documentary ‘The Lost Worlds of Mitchell and Kenyon’ by Dan Cruickshank, amazing footage of Edwardian life in the local area. American Graffiti (1973) by George Lucas, supposedly influenced by his own childhood, the end titles seemingly reinforcing that by saying what the film characters are doing now (1970s) but this is a well known filmmakers trick, as used in the film Fargo (This is a real story). BTW I noticed the yellow car had the licence plate TH138 a reference to THX1138 (1971) perhaps? a film also by George Lucas. So what did I gain from this? it’s a 70s film influenced by George Lucas’s memories of the 1950s.

I have also put into practice some of what I learn’t on the writing a thesis course (see diary entry) and switched to reading online journals and articles to research what is the most current thinking in my subject. It’s interesting to note that the bibliographies of these articles reference the same books that I have identified along with some of the journals that I wasn’t aware of. What this means is that I have a growing literary resource to research and most importantly I’m not reinventing the wheel, which also came up in this weeks Qualitative Research seminar. I’m mindful that I should be wary and confirm the quality of the data/information that I plan to research.

The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon

Notes from watching the first chapter Life and Times

The lost films (in the 1920’s) of Mitchell and Kenyon was discovered in the basement of a Blackburn shop by some builders who contacted a local film enthusiast (Peter Warden) before deciding to throw them away or not. 2 large metal containers of 850 silver nitrate film reels, which were transferred to the BFI (Berkhamsted) for restoration. Each minute of film consisting of 960 frames restored over the following 3 years, 800 films in all.

Mitchell and Kenyon

Mitchell was a photographer and Kenyon a maker of penny arcade machines jointly founded the firm, which became Norden Films and forayed into short dramas.

These films while not essentially documentaries are records of life in Edwardian Britain. This was a purely commercial endeavour with the films marketed direct to the public by people wearing sandwich boards with details of the weeks lates film. Essentially people were attracted to see themselves on film.

AT the time editing didn’t exist and there was no camera movement so the films were one long continuous shot without zoom and using the same angle so they had to be creative with the mounting of the camera for example on the top deck of a Tram.

There were no Cinemas and so their films were screened in the local halls or at the fairground in tents. They were prolific and visited many locations including Northern Ireland.

Peter Worden (1938-2013)

When the collection, consisting of hundreds of films of late Victorian and Edwardian Britain, was discovered in a basement in 1994, it was Peter who was its initial and tireless custodian and conservator. In 2000, he donated the collection to the nation and it entered the vaults of the BFI National Archive. What followed was a huge preservation, restoration and research project in collaboration between the BFI and the University of Sheffield.

Anon, Peter Worden (1938-2013). British Film Institute. Available at: [Accessed November 17, 2019].

Week 6, November 11th to November 15th

Monday – worked on my funding application for year 2 and 3 based on todays seminar on funding for post graduate study. It’s a long process but managed to have a draft application by the end of the day.

Tuesday 12th Supervisor meeting: Focus is shifting a little away from collective memory and into the richer subject area of Cinema Memory, which was already becoming an area of interest for my research and films. Action points: continue with reading and research on film and memory and how films represent memory.

Submitted my funding application.

FASS510 Using Computer Software for Qualitative Data Analysis: Interesting seminar looking at the computer software available for research. I’ve decided to use Atlas.ti for my qualitative analysis. Sp when time allows I’ll spend time getting my notes in order and start adding them to Atlas.ti, although I have made a note of the warnings and will spend some time organising my work and codes before committing to data entry. But I am also a bit wary of the amount of time this will occupy that could be used elsewhere..

Wednesday – Dementia Hub: I contacted them earlier in the week just to see if I could come along to their next meeting (1st Friday of the month) just to get a feel of what goes on and whether there is any interest in and to my documentary. Had a reply and an invite to come along to the next meeting at Lancaster Town Hall.

Thursday – Spent many hours transcribing the supervisor meetings and reading through what we discussed. (3,500 words) A few points came up that offered the opportunity to make a film using a format and design that I had been thinking of making for many years now. Developed an outline and synopsis of the film, which while challenging to make would perfectly represent  a form of memory in an interesting and informative way. Details to follow soon.

Friday – Received email confirmation that filming at the Dukes would be possible with a small caveat in that I will need to use someone familiar to the audience to act as a go between, which was something I was thinking of myself. Of course there is a small cost to this but I should be able to arrange suitable payment for their time.

Watched the first episode of the BBC Documentary, The lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon by Dan Cruickshank in collaboration with the BFI. See my Journal entry for notes on the 1st episode.

Week 5, November 4th to November 8th

Cinema and Memory

Documentary Film: pre-production

Film production meeting with potential professional advisors on current dementia research for people living with dementia. Very positive meeting with Dr Siobhan Reilly at Lancaster University who expressed interest in my film project and agreeing to appear as an expert in my documentary film. We also discussed other potential experts who would also be willing to appear in the film.

FASS510: Qualitative Research Methods: Focus Groups. Interestingly I picked up on using existing groups to adapt as focus groups. In my case this would mean joining in with dementia specific groups and conducting interviews very much as you would in a focus group as the mediator each question moving the discussion on and of course making sure that it stays on tracks and no one hogs the discussion.

Literary Review progress

Made some good progress on the Literary review, identified a key book and this has opened the door to further research. Also discovered that a book I thought would be very insightful turned out to be the opposite as I had already identified the key concepts and the rest of the book just reinforced this concept.

Key theory? Cinema and Memory Annette Kuhn?

The journey begins where personal and collective memory meet in stories about cinema and cinemagoing and about what these meant, and still mean, in the lives of the first movie-made generation – those men and women who grew up in the 1930s, when ‘going to the pictures’ was Britain’s favourite spare-time activity. (Kuhn: 1)

For the majority going to the pictures is remembered as being less about films and stars than about daily and weekly routine neighbourhood comings and goings and organising spare time. Cinemagoing is remembered, that is, as part of the fabric of daily life, and 1930 Cinema­goers paint a Iively picture of cinema’s role in their young lives. But if everyone has something to say about how they grew up with cinema, they all have different stories to tell and different ways of telling them. (Kuhn: 100)

Diary – Week 4, October 28th to 1st November

FASS508 Quantitive Data the second session introduction to quantitate data research. It was useful to reacquaint myself with this research methodology but I cannot see this approach fitting into my research methods so I probably will not go on to do the more in depth courses in the next term.

FASS510 Generating data: Fieldwork, Ethnography and Participant Observation. Much more like it, this is exactly what I was looking for. Picked up some useful tips for my own documentary and research methods and while some appear to push hard up against Ethics they din’t break them. For the fieldwork instead of taking written notes I took photos as these could be analysed in greater depth after returning back from the field, got a thumbs up for doing this.

2nd Supervisor meeting.

The challenge has been set, in fact I have a 2 phase approach to my literary review now, with the aim of significantly deepening my knowledge of film theory albeit that specifically related to the portrayal of memory in film.

Phase One

How have film theorists conceptualised the relationship between memory and cinema?

  • Which are the key publications on this area?
  • Who are the key theorists, and what specialisms or disciplinary fields are they situated within?
  • What are their principal arguments?
  • In what respects are these theories contadictory, limited or problematit?

Phase Two

How have filmmakers conceptualised (or visualised) the relationship between memory and cinema?

  • Which are the key films on this topic?
  • What are their principal arguments/narratives, and which genres, traditions or contexts are they situated within?
  • What are they situated within?
  • What are their characteristic formal and stylistic features?
  • In what respects are these films contradictory, limited or problematic?

Documentary Film Production Meeting: Attended a meeting with Gil Graystone, Inclusive Film & Theatre Officer at the Dukes in Lancaster. Discussed my documentary project and how we might partner together to make a film on the Dementia friendly screenings they hold as part of the ‘Life more ordinary” project. She will discus my film proposal with the Theatres Director in the next few days to see if filming is possible and fits in with the Dukes schedules.