Film Flashbacks : 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 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. (Turim, 2013)
Oldboy (2003) Directed by Park Chan-wook. The film starts immediately into a flashback or in this case a flashforward sequence due to where this sequence is positioned in the timeline of the film, although the audience would not be aware this is a flashforward, as there is no preceding historical reference. This is not a memory of an event from Dae-su past. We see a man dressed in a suit restraining another man by his tie, the man also wearing a suit and incongruously holding a small white dog. They are on the roof of a tall building, the man with the dog hanging precariously at the buildings edge over a long drop to the streets below.
The only thing stopping that fall from happening, the man and dog’s death is the other man holding his tie this is a suicide attempt interrupted by the man grabbing at the tie. “I just wanted to talk” he says, “who are you” says the other, “my name is” we see a troubled face, a man struggling to remember his name as the camera zooms closer into a face that is hard to see but continuing to struggle to remember his name, then there is a jump cut to a matching shot of a business man with a bloody nose, Dae-su he says. Is this the man from the roof, whose face we couldn’t really see and who struggled to remember his own name? What could have happened to this man, that brought him to the top of a tall building and without any memory of who he is? As Dae-su exits the building there is a loud crash as the body of the man falls onto a parked car in the streets below, the dog falling from the man’s hands.
The use of a film flashback/flashforward in this context I believe was to prepare the audience for what is to come, what did happen to the business man, how did he come to find himself on the roof of a building preventing a suicide attempt while not knowing who he is and what events led him to be in this situation. The use of a flashforward is relatively unusual and rarely used when compared with the use of flashbacks and their use to link back to a past event, a memory from a character’s history. This could be very confusing to the audience, because as a flashback we would assume this is this a memory of what happened to this character, that is in the businessman’s past, is this something that Dae-su is remembering? After viewing the complete film, we know that this flashback is a link to something that will happen to his future self, in 15 years’ time and through hindsight this flashforward makes sense. This presumably was an editorial choice made by the director, for without this sequence the film would have started with the somewhat less dramatic opening with the audience being introduced to the main character, Dae-su waiting to be processed in a Police Station, nursing a bloody nose and still very drunk, rather than the life and death situation at the top of a tall building.
Some 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)
In the next flashback scene which involves his daughter Mi-do, Mi-do is reading Dae-su journals and his description of ants crawling all over him, devouring from the inside, while he is held captive, as this develops into a discussion on loneliness the camera starts to zoom in, to a close up of Mi-do’s face, just as a subway train seemingly appears over her left shoulder until it fills the entire frame.
We cut to an internal shot of the train; we see a young Mi-do looking towards the back of the carriage. In a reverse shot we look through the appendages of a giant ant. From Mi-do’s viewpoint we see the giant ant seated at the back of the train, the image is blurred like a distant memory is being recalled, which becomes more blurred as we return to a close up of the young Mi-do’s face. As the young Mi-do wipes her hands across her face there is a jump cut to the current timeline as Mi-do completes the hand movement across her face, we are out of the flashback and back to the present. This flashback appears to be of a memory of a hallucination she had rather than a memory of actual events A shared hallucination with Dae-su and therefore could this be related to the hypnotism we later learn both characters were subjected to, Dae-su in his cell and Mi-do at the restaurant where she works, we see this in another flashback when the hypnotist visits her. Ants also have a significance in the South Korean creation mythology, the great flood, and Namu Doryeong, who is saved from the flood by floating on a tree and then proceeds to save first a family of ants, then mosquitos until he saves all the worlds animals. (Anon, 2018)
It seems appropriate at this point to talk about framing decisions made by the director, in each of these flashbacks. The character experiencing the flashback is framed central in the frame and then using a zoom action or scale in to a close up until we just see a head shot. When coming out of the flashback and returning to the current timeline the camera zooms out to a matching shot of the character in the current timeline who is also centrally positioned in the frame. To do this successfully requires great attention to detail in the pre-production stage. Matching shots between scenes and matching the framing takes planning although exact matching can be achieved in the post-production stage using scale function but of course only if the shot has been taken during filming or later as a pick-up shot.
Though avant-garde and art cinema and memory films constitute privileged locations for investigating cinema’s relation to memory, those relations extend to almost every genre and every period of film history—shadowing, if not coinciding exactly with the history of the flashback. (Radstone, 2010)
Dae-su goes to the Millstone Hair Saloon to find out more about Lee Soo-ah, as he listens to the woman recalling he repeatedly looks to her knees as if trying to remember a key event from his past and as the door opens, and a woman enters the Millstone Hair Saloon to the ringing of the door entry bell, the camera tracks down to the women’s knees and suddenly Dae-su rembers. The scene cuts to a flashback, Dae-su memory of a young women riding a bicycle, the ringing of the cycles bell and the knees of the girl prominent in the framing. All these elements used to match the scene set in the present with this memory from Dea-su past. The memory of the first meeting between Dae-su and his antagonist, Lee Woo-jin and his sister Lee Soo-ah.
Matching shots and sounds in the film flashbacks
The flashback uses several elements, the ringing of the hair saloons shop bell, the visuals of the women’s knees linking to the visuals of the cycles bell and the bare knees of Lee Soo-ah riding the cycle around the school playground. This breaks away from the visual cues apparent in the preceding flashbacks, instead of matching shots of close ups of faces, in this instance matching visuals of bells, knees and audio from the shop bell and cycle bell. Contained within this flashback is the reason for the conflict, the basis for the entire film and Lee Woo-jin and his justification for his vengeance on Dae-su. This is an example of one of the key reasons for the use of flashbacks in film and literature as Radstone says “The flashback is a crucial moment in a film narrative, one that captures the cinematic expression of memory, and history.” (Radstone, 2010).
The film flashback of the younger Dae-su and his first encounter with Lee Soo-ah is observed by the adult Dae-su, a spectator in his own memory of this crucial event. He follows his younger self and sees what he sees, remembering the event and cause of everything that has happened to him in the last 15 years. The flashback ends with the adult Dae-su walking away from camera with a voice over by Mi-do “ No way, you were locked up for just saying that?”.
The film flashback involving Mi-do and the hypnotherapist is not a memory of either Dae-su or Lee Woo-jin in this scene set in Woo-jin penthouse as he describes how both Dae-su and Mi-do have both been hypnotised. As neither were participants in this event, so there is a jump cut to the flashback sequence, without matching shots as there where in the others in this sequence between the current timeline in the penthouse and the past event in the restaurant. However, within the flashback, the image of Mi-do being hypnotised cross dissolves into the image of Dae-su also being hypnotised. The flashback continues set in the restaurant and using split screen with Lee woo-jin continuing to narrate the scenario in the flashback until the flashback sequence ends as Dae-su is revealed to be unconscious from post hypnotic suggestion seated in a car driving away to Mi-do’s home.
To be continued…
Anon (2018) Korean Folktales – Korea Blog – Inspire Me Korea Blog. Available at: https://blog.inspiremekorea.com/history/korean-folktales/ (Accessed: 21 February 2020).
Hayward, S. (1996) Key concepts in cinema studies. London ; New York: Routledge.
Radstone, S. (2010) ‘Cinema and memory’, in Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates. Fordham University Press, pp. 325–342.
Turim, M. (2013) Flashbacks in film: Memory & history, Flashbacks in Film: Memory & History. Taylor and Francis. doi: 10.4324/9781315851761.
While many directors and screenplay writers employ the flashback as a tool to enhance a character’s background or provide additional information to a scene, there are those films that are narrated almost in their entirety in flashback. A central character, a protagonist, narrates the unfolding story to another character onscreen and therefore in turn to the audience either as the story unfolds in the book or as their memory of events.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Wes Anderson
The Notebook (2004) Nick Cassavetes
The Limey (1999) Steven Soderbergh
These films have very little in common other than that they are narrated entirely in flashback. In The Notebook (2004) the character Duke, played by James Garner reads from his notebook to a another resident Mrs Hamilton in a nursing home played by Gena Rowlands about the life of a young couple who met and fell in love in the 1940’s and before America entered the war in Europe. The premise of the film until the very end is that Garners character is reading the story of this young couple, Noah and Allie, in the 3rd person, as Allie’s character played by Rowlands is in late stage Dementia and remembers very little if anything of her past life, including family or friends and doesn’t even remember that Duke played by Garner has read this story to her many times. Later in the film we learn that is Duke is actually Noah and is telling their story as Mrs Hamilton, Rowlands (Allie) is his wife and they are the young couple featured in the story (Cassavetes, 2004)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Interestingly, the story is told entirely in flashback by the Author (the young writer, played by Jude Law) who is actually retelling the story of another main character in the film Mr Mustafa (Zero), it is Mustafa’s memories of the events involving himself and his association with the other main character, Monsieur Gustave H (played by Ralph Fiennes) and the series of misadventures, that befall them when trying to claim the contents of a will, the valuable painting of ‘Boy with apple’. (Anderson, 2014)
In both these films there is no obvious cinematic device used to differentiate between the current timeline and the past timeline, by this I mean a dissolve or blurring of the image but the jump in timeline is differentiated by a change in look and character. in The Notebook (2004) it is the opening of the notebook and as Duke (Garner) begins to read, the timeline switches to the 1940’s and the audience can identify with the change, this transition as the characters also change to their younger selves, they are played by the younger actors, Duke (Noah) played by Ryan Gosling and Mrs Hamilton (Allie) played by Rachel McAdams. However, in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) while there are no obvious uses of the flashback visual tools, that is a cut to a dissolve or blurring to identify the shift from the timeline of the Authors meeting with Mr Mustafa that is, Zero (set in the 1960s) and the recounted timeline (1930’s) however there is a marked change in the production design (Colours) and the choice of cinematic aspect ratio with the 1980’s shot in 1:85.1 format, the 1960’s in 2:35.1 widescreen anamorphic and finally the 1930’s shot in academy ratio 1:375.1. The hotel in the 1960’s is drab, mainly brown or as Wes says “his idea of the communist era, which is olive green and orange” while also appearing run down, meanwhile the 1930’s Hotel is bright, very pink and vibrant like a “wedding cake”. (Wes Anderson on the Colors and Ratios of ’The Grand Budapest Hotel – YouTube, 2015)
The Limey (1999) Interesting example of the use of flashbacks, with the creative use of the editing process that seems to make it appear as if the film is always looking backwards or as the Director suggests, representing the fragmentation of Wilsons memory. There are flashbacks within flashbacks and flashbacks looking much further back, into a past with a young Wilson and young Jenny, these flashbacks were dropped into the edit from another film directed by Ken Loach, Poor Cow (1967) this works so well that the audience doesn’t have to imagine a younger Wilson or Jenny they can link directly through to the characters past and Wilsons memories of a young Jenny in the use of footage showing a young Terence Stamp playing the role of a petty criminal in Poor Cow (1967).
Of course, this somewhat relies on the audience not being aware that this footage is from another film made in 1967, however their use as a flashback make perfect sense. The grainy visuals from an earlier time using old film stock perfectly fitting into the flashback concept of showing memories from an earlier time. The film is designed, according to Soderbergh, to reflect on how human memory functions, we remember past events in fragments triggered by events, objects or any of the sensory inputs. “It’s a graphic depiction of the fragmentary nature of memory, editor Sarah Flack turning the shards of story into fleeting reflections that capture Jenny between shifting planes of recollection”. (Gurd, 2019) The same can be said of Wilson, his memories are fragmented, recollections of Jenny on the beach, her threatening to call the Police on him if he does anything bad, which later becomes important in the final scenes of the film and may have influenced Wilsons decision not to go through with the killing of Valentine. “Soderbergh creates an historical symmetry between past/present and Valentine/Wilson with identical scenes of Jenny as a young girl threatening to expose her father’s criminal activity and the older Jenny in a similar situation with Valentine (holding a telephone in both cases). The closer Wilson gets to the truth the more he comes to realize his own complicity as an absent father in her daughter’s death.” (Totaro, 2002)
Soderbergh says “Given its premise, it seemed there was some possibility to recraft it into a memory piece”. (Fear, 2019) Eduardo shares his experiences of being with Jenny through flashbacks, those of her confrontation with the men at the warehouse for example, the same men that Wilson later shoots dead after his beating at the warehouse.
Flashbacks triggered by a sound, a smell or indeed anything can trigger these memories and while in the film these triggers are not always visible on screen, we can imagine that they are there, experienced by Wilson, triggering these memories of his fragmented past life with his daughter, Jenny, while in and out of prison.
Wilson also experiences a flashforward, a prolepsis, initiated I suspect by Wilson finding a solitary photograph of his daughter, Jenny, at the top of the stairs, during his wandering around Valentines home, these flashforwards appear as alternative futures and all violent, in the scene when Wilson visualises the alternative options/outcomes of killing Valentine, by shooting him, only to be stopped at the moment of execution by Eduardo.
Soderbergh says “We created or tried to create, meaning and emotion through repetition and juxtaposition, which again, is something that’s unique to movies. The ability to mold something and then change the meaning or alter the meaning just by reordering and repeating things, that’s unique in film.” (Boucher, 2019)
What is the purpose of the Flashback?
In The Notebook (2004) the flashbacks are like many examples of the flashback usage in film, it is used to link to a past, a past in this case forgotten in its entirety by Allie. Duke uses the notebook as a form of misdirection, so as not to be seen as recalling from his own memories, in the retelling of what is their story. Duke appears to read from his book in the hope that Allie will regain her memory of their past life together through his readings. In many respects this misdirection works, as Allie believes the story is of a couple unknown to her, just an interesting story of young love until she has a lucid moment and she remembers that Duke is her husband and the story he has been telling her, is their own. One of the possible reasons for this filmmaking approach is to also keep the audience guessing until the point in the film that it becomes clear that they and the young couple visited in the flashbacks are one and the same and then from this point to keep the audience interest and the suspense, in the hope that at some point Allie will remember their past life together.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) from the opening scene, of the girl at the statue of the Author, she is carrying a copy of his book and we assume that from this book the whole film is told in a flashback through each of its different times of the past life of the author and the past life through the memories of Mustafa retold from his initial meeting with Mustafa in the spa and then continued at a shared evening meal in the hotels restaurant. In many respects a similar approach to that used in The Notebook (2004). Anderson himself relates that the idea for the film came from a series of books that he was reading by Austrian author Stefan Zweig. “The Grand Budapest Hotel has elements that were sort of stolen from both these books. Two characters in our story are vaguely meant to represent Zweig himself — our “Author” character, played by Tom Wilkinson” (Prochnik, 2014)
Note: It would be interesting to consider films that also use this approach, that is, the concept of reading from a book to tell a story in flashback, for example The Never Ending Story (1984) and The Princess Bride (1987)
The Limey (1999) This film was effectively created in the post-production stage, in the editing processes. We learn from interviews with the director Steven Soderbergh that the first edit of the film was in a typical linear progression and then following a screening he decided with his editor to fragment the footage by creating a non-linear timeline using flashbacks for the film, to better represent the seemingly fragmented memory and to explain the actions of Wilson. We return to the same shot of Wilson seated on the plane several times, these seemingly breaking up the linear sequence or returning the audience through flashbacks to the current timeline and with this also to Wilsons thought processes. So, I feel it is this single shot of Wilson seated on the plane returning to London, which initiates the flashbacks and what can be the confusion of a film that is always looking backwards.
Confusingly one of these images of Wilson on the plane can also be seen as a flashforward, the first time we see Wilson seated on the plane at the beginning of the film, which seems to be of him travelling from London to the America but is actually the direct opposite. The opening sequence of Wilson shot at the Los Angeles airport, is of his departure back to London, we never see his London departure or his arrival in Los Angeles. The subsequent on plane images seemingly preceding flashbacks to his pursuit of revenge for his daughters killing. Totaro thinks that “To read that first airplane image as a flashforward and the film a flashback makes sense of most of the film, but not all because there are several scenes in which Wilson could not have been present.” (Totaro, 2002) I’m not sure if I am in total agreement with this statement because like all memories they can be derived from actual experience or based on inference and imagination of a situation or event, indeed a collective memory.
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. (Turim, 2013)
Anderson, W. (2014) The Grand Budapest Hotel · BoB. Available at: https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/prog/07CA758B?bcast=130244766 (Accessed: 31 January 2020).
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).
Cassavetes, N. (2004) The Notebook. Amazon Prime. Available at: ONLINE Accessed 30/01/2020.
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).
Gurd, J. (2019) Reflections Of Jenny: THE LIMEY At 20 | Birth.Movies.Death. Available at: https://birthmoviesdeath.com/2019/10/07/reflections-of-jenny-the-limey-at-20 (Accessed: 4 February 2020).
Prochnik, G. (2014) ‘I stole from Stefan Zweig’: Wes Anderson on the author who inspired his latest movie – Telegraph. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/10684250/I-stole-from-Stefan-Zweig-Wes-Anderson-on-the-author-who-inspired-his-latest-movie.html (Accessed: 10 February 2020).
Totaro, D. (2002) The Limey – Offscreen. Available at: https://offscreen.com/view/limey (Accessed: 10 February 2020).
Turim, M. (2013) Flashbacks in film: Memory & history, Flashbacks in Film: Memory & History. Taylor and Francis. doi: 10.4324/9781315851761.
Wes Anderson on the Colors and Ratios of ’The Grand Budapest Hotell – YouTube (2015). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouavfP6EhWQ (Accessed: 3 February 2020).
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: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1219827/quotes?ref_=tttrv_sa_3 (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: 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).
Opam, K. (2017) Ghost in the Shell review: a solid film built on a broken foundation – The Verge. Available at: https://www.theverge.com/2017/3/29/15114902/ghost-in-the-shell-review-scarlett-johansson (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.
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.
You have this idea for a documentary film, the subject is interesting, and you are willing to spend your time, money and resources to make it. But before you can start filming you must research your idea and create an outline for your project. An outline is like a wish list of things that you want to include in your film; subjects, people and places. Before you can start let’s decide who your audience is? who is possibly going to see and also be interested in watching your film? Sometimes a film is targeted at a certain age group, demographic, be it a local audience or national audience or are you looking for a world-wide audience?
Film Festivals have a selection criterion based on the running time of a film so if your world-wide audience is going to be reached through film festival screenings, you’ll need to consider the length of the film in order to be selected.
Now that your audience is sorted, you’ll need to research interesting people who can be contacted for interview in your film. Not everyone likes to be filmed so you’ll need backups. Also, not every interview goes well and they may end up not being included in the final edit, so again you need backups.
Change of direction? Your research can lead you to a more interesting direction, don’t be afraid to explore but be aware that this new direction may not fit well with the rest of your project and cannot be included in the final film.
Make this your mantra, Research and Research again. Continuously research your subject and the subjects in your film and the direction that your filming takes you. You may uncover some little-known facts and through this expand knowledge in your subject.
My Documentary Film Idea
TITLE – Cinema Memories (Working title)
Outline film ONE.
Investigation into the Dementia friendly screenings at the Dukes. What I would like to do is to film the audience at a live screening or series of screenings, as scheduled by the Dukes, with follow up interviews with selected dementia sufferers and their carers. Looking to add to these with interviews away from the Dukes, following up on the cinema experience and to see what their memories are of going to the cinema, in their youth or their earliest memory.
I’m seeking interviews with health professionals and academics, researchers and get an idea from them on camera of what dementia is in layman terms and from this try and determine what could be happening at these screenings.
Apart from memory loss what are the other health conditions that Dementia sufferers experience? What do they experience when going to Cinema, is it a reconnection to earlier memories and experiences of their cinema going or is something else happening? Are Dementia sufferers living in a past time? do they believe that the screening of an old film is a current release, do they know what year the film was released? Does it make them happy or ultimately does it make them sad that they have lost so much? What part does the venue play in the cinema going experience? Is it that the Dukes is an older independent cinema that could by definition belongs to an earlier age that makes or rather adds to the overall experience so that the audience feel more involved, would a modern Cinema Multiplex work just as well?
During the follow-up interviews I plan to look for b-roll opportunities. Street scenes of Lancaster City particularly on market days and possibly around Christmas may present an opportunity to explore and bring to life the location around the Dukes. I also plan to film in the surrounding countryside maybe the lakes although I will have to find a credible link to do so as I do not want just any B-roll, by that I mean random landscapes shots, so maybe look for a link from a dementia sufferers past history, maybe they lived there and have fond memories of the location – also make sure you ask them about happy memories of local locations or indeed bad memories, each have their own place in a documentary film.
This is going to be an emotional roller coaster of a film so I plan to be careful not to concentrate on one of the other, and seek balance where possible.
I’m really looking for a small group of individuals that appear in the first film that I can form an ongoing relationship with, a core group of people that I can contact and feature in any follow-up films.
Include a small amount of travelling footage especially to the lakes, I do this to emphasise we are on a journey of discovery. (But I may drop this if I do not want to be seen on camera – alternatively I can show the scenery and just have a voiceover) – which leads to:-
Think about using a narrator to voice over some of the sequences in the documentary but where possible use professional, authoritative voices to explain screen visuals.
Decide again who is your prime audience before editing, is it for the academic panel and supervisors only, the public, medical professionals, or a mix of these – do I need several edits? Will I be targeting the film festival circuit? I think the answer to that is YES, let’s get this film out there to a world-wide audience. A film on Dementia I watched recently was funded by the Canadian Film Council and is currently available to view on Netflix – is this a possibility for my film, is there funding? Should I approach the Alzheimer’s Society for assistance either financially or for the follow-up films? What other sources of funding are there?
Abstract: Exploring cinemagoing and cinema culture, this book considers the 1930s, when “going to the pictures” was everybody’s favourite spare-time activity. From the familiar and magical surroundings of the picture houses themselves to the action and romance on the screen, Annette Kuhn draws on extensive interviews with picturegoers, research in cultural history and readings of popular films of the day to discover how cinema brought a special magic to the daily lives of a generation of young men and women growing up in an austere climate of making-do.
Kuhn, A. (2002). An everyday magic : Cinema and cultural memory (Cinema and society). London: I.B. Tauris.
The Collective memory Reader
There are few terms or concepts that have, in the last twenty or so years, rivaled “collective memory” for attention in the humanities and social sciences. Indeed, use of the term has extended far beyond scholarship to the realm of politics and journalism, where it has appeared in speeches at the centers of power and on the front pages of the world’s leading newspapers. The current efflorescence of interest in memory, however, is no mere passing fad: it is a hallmark characteristic of our age and a crucial site for understanding our present social, political, and cultural conditions. Scholars and others in numerous fields have thus employed the concept of collective memory, sociological in origin, to guide their inquiries into diverse, though allegedly connected, phenomena. Nevertheless, there remains a great deal of confusion about the meaning, origin, and implication of the term and the field of inquiry it underwrites.
Olick, J., Vinitzky-Seroussi, Vered, & Levy, Daniel. (2011). The Collective memory reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Qualitative Research Methods – collecting evidence, crafting analysis, communicating impact.
Qualitative Research Methods is a comprehensive, all-inclusive resource for the theory and practice of qualitative/ethnographic research methodology.
Serves as a “how-to” guide for qualitative/ethnographic research, detailing how to design a project, conduct interviews and focus groups, interpret and analyze data, and represent it in a compelling manner
Demonstrates how qualitative data can be systematically utilized to address pressing personal, organizational, and social problems
Written in an engaging style, with in-depth examples from the author’s own practice.
Tracy, S. (2013). Qualitative research methods : Collecting evidence, crafting analysis, communicating impact. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
I am jumping ahead here by checking possible locations for the documentary film. There is a methodology for a films pre-production and this would normally be a consideration for the later stages of the project. What prompted this was an interesting online article I came across during my research that could prove to be vitally important in the production of my documentary film. My research identified that a local venue has been running Cinema and Entertainment events specifically for Dementia sufferers and their carers, which is key to the subject of my research and narrative of my documentary.
To research this article further I decided to conduct a recce of the venue and surrounding locations before contacting the venue. The reason for this may seem obvious, but my aim was to scout the venue to see if it met with my requirements as a filmmaker, which I have listed a few requirements below. It is also a good idea to try and get a feel for a location and see how it fits into your films visualisation. One of the key things I like to achieve whenever possible is to raise my films production value. What do I mean by this? for example, if you need to film in a church and the local church and the Cathedral are potential options, always go for the Cathedral. This is to immediately step up the production value of your film. Of course this isn’t a hard rule and sometimes the local church is the better option and for a variety of reasons for example aesthetics, practical considerations (lighting a large space is expensive).
Location Scouting – My location requirements
Venue open to filming.
Natural light or practical lighting.
What access will they allow.
Cost considerations – if any.
Additional permissions required – if any.
Is the location noisy so poor sound.
Restricted Public access.
Location Scouting – Additional requirements
Easy to get to
Services near to hand (food, drink, toilets, medical for the crew)
What is the B-roll? whenever you are filming a documentary or indeed any filming you will always need to make cuts in your footage. an examples of this would be a long interview, which after a short while becomes boring visually, there’s only so much time that you can watch what I call a bobbing head, you can acceptably watch for 15 seconds but any longer and you need to break away to a different visual just to keep your audience engaged. When you cut you need to cut away to a different visual usually related to the what the subject is discussing, but may just relate to the location, but whatever it is make it interesting.
Research challenges. Studying for a PhD by practice can be a greater challenge than you anticipated, unlike the usual pathway of the thesis based PhD you have to both research the subject academically (for the written thesis part) and at the same time research for the practice element, which in my case is a film production.
What are the differences? they may seem obvious, the academic research is primarily for the written thesis and any research for the practice element/artefact and in my case the making of a film, is for the pre-production of the film, that is the films outline, B-roll, subjects and locations I want to include in the film, basically everything that needs to be done before you can start filming. However there is considerable overlap, as the academic research also produces ideas and leads for the films production. For example, my initial academic research when applied to the location Lancaster City and its surrounding area has identified potential subjects and locations that I would want to include into the film. Indeed this initial academic research into my subject of collective memory has identified another thread to consider for further research, which if the research is successful would bring the benefit of my film having multiple storylines.
Will my practice research add to my academic research? yes is the answer, even at this early stage of the films pre-production the locations and potential film subjects have influenced some of my further reading choices I have made and I suspect this may in turn lead to further threads to the film. However I need to be careful of over expanding my subjects range, as it is impossible to have all the answers to such an over expanded subject and almost certain to lead to a research challenge impossible to achieve in the 3 years of a PhD and in the context of the film, it would also be impossible to include all of the research driven results and expanded questions in a film of acceptable duration..
Where am I now? my research on the subject of collective memory and film has opened up a new area of research on Cinema, and by this I actually mean the collective memories of people going to the cinema to watch a film (a shared experience, event) . The social experience of going to the cinema, the people, the buying of a ticket, something to eat, drink and the taking of your seat in the auditorium. The film that you watched and the time period are all factors and potential areas of interest to research and explore in my documentary. This again leads to another question of how It would be useful to compare cinema going from the previous century to going to the cinema now.
Remember these? when you began your journey into academia you had to produce a statement to supplement your application for undergraduate study and possibly for your post graduate study.
This is about you, your personal skills and academic experience/abilities and why you have applied to study at this institution. This is important, basically you are selling yourself to the institution and it’s about how you can uniquely achieve your PhD research through your skillset and record of achievement thus far. For me this was my experience of documentary filmmaking and appropriate academic study in a film related subject.
It may certainly include some details of your research proposal but remember this isn’t the research proposal this is a personal statement. Instead think of writing about your motivation for studying for a PhD and why you have chosen this institution and potential supervisor. It may not only be your supervisor who reads this statement, admissions and possibly the interview panel may read this statement in conjunction with the research proposal.
Don’t forget to discuss a little about yourself but avoid over stating your abilities and experience, for example you cannot be an expert in anything if you have only a years experience.
Experimental Film – The production of Experimental Film as a representation of memory
There are many examples of films that have human memory central to the narrative, the examples below have some credibility in Psychological fact according to the neuroscientist Steve Ramirez. (BU Today 2018)
Memento is one of the most realistic accounts of amnesia — the inability to form or recall our personally experienced events
Inside Out is a Pixar classic that zooms into a child’s brain and lets us see her memories form, change, and evaporate over time as she matures
The Bourne Trilogy (which starts with The Bourne Identity) is a fast-spaced action series about Jason Bourne, an agent with amnesia who knows how to win any fight, but doesn’t remember who he is or where he came from.
Inception is a mind-bending film on implanting and extracting memories in the brain, done with high-octane drama and a twisting, dream-like storyline.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is perhaps the most famous memory erasure movie ever. Would you erase the memory of a loved one after a breakup if it eased the pain?
Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 — a classic and instant-classic — tackle the concepts of implanting memories in human-like robots.
The Matrix is another classic. “I know Kung Fu,” says Neo, after having martial arts skills uploaded into his brain. The movie tackles the philosophical questions of brains, free will, uploading information onto the brain, and how this changes us forever.
Total Recall has the main character going into a machine where he can live out any reality or fantasy that he sees fit. Things get blurry, however, when reality and fantasy start to blend and force viewers to ask themselves: if our subjective reality feels real, then does it matter if it’s real or not?
The digital revolution in archival media opens up access to previously unknown images and provides the possibility that these images could broaden and transform collective memory. (B. Fabos)
BU Today. (2018). 8 Brainy Movies That (Almost) Get Neuroscientist Stamp of Approval | BU Today | Boston University. [online] Available at: http://www.bu.edu/today/2018/ramirez-listicle/ [Accessed 18 Mar. 2019].
Bettina Fabos (2014) The Trouble with Iconic Images: Historical Timelines and Public Memory, Visual Communication Quarterly, 21:4, 223-235
Avant-garde Films that lived through time. film viewing list