Prosthetic memory – continued

Prosthetic Memory

Bioengineered humans, clones and synthetics

In this chapter, I continue my research into the key concept of prosthetic memory, exploring how it transcends the boundaries of film genres and challenges our understanding of memory and identity. Prosthetic memory, as introduced by the theorist Landsberg, emerges as a new form of memory the meeting of individuals and historical narratives. It takes shape in experiential settings like cinemas and museums, inviting us to reconsider how we interact with the past through these cinematic experiences. I will explore a diverse array of films that exemplify prosthetic memory, reaching beyond the confines of science fiction into genres like horror and spy films. The focus will extend to the concept of clones, which has gained prominence in science fiction cinema, offering a lens through which to examine the intricacies of memory and identity.

Bioengineered humans, such as clones and synthetics, will be a central theme in my exploration. Films like Oblivion (20XX) reveal the complexities of memory in cloned beings, as they grapple with the genetic and prosthetic memories imprinted on their minds. I will argue that the idea that memories, even those encoded in genetics, can be susceptible to contamination and alteration, shedding light on the vulnerability of both individual and inherited memory. I will introduce genetic memory, a concept at the heart of my research into inherited memory which, suggests that certain aspects of identity and knowledge can be inherited through genetics. This notion becomes particularly relevant in the context of science fiction films, where clones possess inherited memories of their original subjects. I will examine the challenges of replicating memories compared to genetic code and explore how genetic memory helps newly created beings’ function with the memories of their predecessors.

My arguments will also venture into the genre of horror films, especially those featuring vampires. Here, the concept of blood memory becomes prominent, highlighting how memories can be passed down through bloodlines and shape the identities of these supernatural creatures. I will discuss how vampire films, such as “Dracula” and “Blade,” reinterpret and expand upon the traditional vampire mythology, expanding the evolution of the genre.

An important introduction of a new memory definition with my investigation into the idea of “second-order memory” in the digital age, that the film theorist Grainge argues that electronic or audio-visual representations of memory have created a second-order memory system that is evolving into a kind of second-order reality. With the emergence of electronic and audio-visual sites of memory, I will argue how these representations of memory (sites of memory) are shaping our collective understanding of the past and even our perception of reality. This concept becomes particularly interesting when applied to films where characters experience brainwashing, implanting false prosthetic memories that challenge the boundaries of reality and fiction. For example, in spy films like “The Ipcress File,” brainwashing takes centre stage, manipulating memories and identities. I will reveal how cinematic techniques are used to disorientate the audience, mirroring the disorientation experienced by the characters subjected to brainwashing. Through these examples, I will consider and argue how the blurred lines between first-hand experience and mediated memory in cinema can manipulate or change reality.

Through my research and case studies into these cinematic landscapes, we’ll question the nature of memory, the influence of mediated narratives on our recollection of events, and the transformative power of prosthetic memories. This chapter will challenge conventional distinctions between real and virtual experiences, to explore the rich mosaic of memory and identity through the medium of film.

Prosthetic memory, which Landsberg’s states that this is a new form of memory.
“This new form of memory, which I call prosthetic memory, emerges at the interface between a person and a historical narrative about the past, at an experiential site such as a movie theater or museum. (Landsberg, 2004: 2)

It can be argued, that the concepts of memory and identity, their interdependence are best negotiated and challenged in science fiction films, a recurring and central theme of some science fiction films where memory is duplicated, synthetically created, and imprinted into both human and bioengineered brains. Science fiction genre films with examples of prosthetic memory, cross many sub genres, for example Cyberpunk (set in a cybernetic society) and Biopunk (bio and genetic engineering), these films tend to feature replicated humans, clones and cyborgs imprinted with the lived memories of a human being or artificial memories created to inform identity in the artificial. In the chapter on Collective and Cultural memory I will discuss the relationship that museums have with prosthetic memory.

Bioengineered Humans: Clones and Synthetics (prosthetic) Memories

Oblivion (2013) Jack is a clone, number 49, but he is unaware of this because his memories are prosthetic implanted from the original Jack. His prosthetic memory implanted by the invaders AI is of the Earth’s triumph and the defeat of an Alien invasion. As a Drone repair technician he believes he is helping to protect a desolate Earth from the Aliens. But in truth the opposite is true, the Alien Invasion was victorious, and Jack is unknowingly carrying out the invaders AI memories that he was implanted with, but he begins to remember his original memories that he should not have. A clone would necessarily be an exact copy therefore the memories of the original could be copied genetically within the brain.
As Shwab states in his journal article, Cyborgs. Postmodern Phantasms of Body and Mind,
“They will contaminate their memory of us, including their genetic memory stored in a mutilated and mutating genetic code”. (Schwab, 1987: 79)

In the context of film the contamination of memories is typically a key plot point manipulating the protagonist to act in a way opposite in nature to how they would have acted without contamination or memory manipulation. Schwab suggests that memories, including those encoded in the genetic makeup of individuals, are susceptible to contamination or alteration. It highlights the vulnerability of memories to external influences and the potential for distortions or mutations in both individual and inherited memory. For Jack the key event in understanding his true situation, regaining his original memory and identity is the chance meeting of another clone, duplicating his role in a different zone. As in the film Ghost in the Shell the prosthetic memories begin to break down revealing the genetic memory of the original in flashbacks. Jack is a clone, yet he also appears to retain the memories of the original these genetic memories, hidden under the layer of false prosthetic memories imprinted on his brain by the alien AI.
Prosthetic directly translates into the creation of the artificial so in these films, which has bioengineered life central to their theme, for example in both Blade Runner films replicants exist as a subculture, less than humans. What I would argue, and as Lury appears to suggest in her argument on prosthetic culture, which I interpret, is that a clone and therefore the prosthetic memories are real and inform both identity and purpose. This cloned identity and prosthetic memories implanted in the clone are overwritten by the genetic memories as they leak. For example, other films use a similar trope, the clone that does not know it is a clone such as the science fiction film Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009). Sam the protagonist is a clone that is not aware that it is a clone until it meets another clone, as in the film Oblivion. This film also shares similarities with Blade Runner regarding clone life expectancy.
I believe these films share the belief that clones should have the same rights as humans, but they are identified as a subculture less than human.
The Island (Michael Bay, 2005), the last uncontaminated place on Earth and everyone working in the facility is supposedly a survivor of a biological disaster and set in a dystopian future but in fact they are all clones. They are unaware that they are clones and that their sole purpose is to provide spare parts to their owners should their owners become sick or injured. While they do not have a complete memory of their true lives and identities and no memory of the very much safe and undamaged World outside, they have genetic memories to be able to function and additional prosthetic memories of why they should stay in the facility. These genetic memories begin to assert themselves and they begin to remember the original memories and identities after escaping the Island.
Prosthetic and Genetic memories are very similar in execution but while prosthetic memories are implanted using technology in science fiction films genetic memories are a part of the cloning process. Genetic memory while still in its infancy of research in the scientific world offers a solution for cinema to explain how newly created and bioengineered beings, clones can function almost immediately, complete with memories of the original subject up to the moment of activation.

Prosthetic Memory through Genetics

Genetic memories
Darold Treffert the psychiatrist and research director states.

Genetic memory, simply put, is complex abilities and actual sophisticated knowledge inherited along with other more typical and commonly accepted physical and behavioural characteristics. (Treffert, 2015)

The concept of genetic memory while not proven is conceptualised in films and implies that certain aspects of an individual’s identity and capabilities are influenced not only by their personal experiences and upbringing but also by the accumulated knowledge and skills inherited from their genetic lineage. In Science Fiction films the trope of genetic memory creates the possibility for a way of defining how clones can remember the original subjects’ memories. Genetic memories are memories that are encoded in the genetics and may be passed on through the generations. Explicitly in the film examples I have chosen, genetic memories are passed on from the original subject and imbedded within the clone’s genetics, as part of its very DNA. The general belief is that while cloning has been proven, creating a clone with complete memories of the original subject would not be so easily achieved.
This suggests that it is much more difficult to reproduce a person’s memories and learned knowledge than their genetic code. While DNA duplication can be a challenging process, it is typically seen as less challenging than transferring or constructing the complex web of memories and learned knowledge that is stored within a person’s brain. This is consistent with the current scientific understanding of cloning, which places more emphasis on genetically cloning than on trying to mimic every aspect of their mental and emotional composition.
Another many times replicated trope is the idea of the clone who remembers their past life. Alien Resurrection (1997) Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. This film depicts a form of genetic memory remembered in a clone, Ripley 8, although in this film it is the xenomorph that is credited with the ability to retain memories across the generations rather than a human genetic memory. In the final scenes of Alien3 (1992) Directed by David Fincher, Ripley’s character is shown falling into a furnace clutching the xenomorph to her chest, almost certainly to her death. Alien Resurrection opens on the premise that the scientists are attempting to recreate the xenomorph Queen from Ripley’s clone created through the recovered genetic material. By surgically removing it from the body of a fully grown clone of Ripley. We see Ripley 8 (clone number 8) who exhibits a combination of human and xenomorph DNA beginning to remember her past life in the canteen scene, which surprises the scientists who despite the initial desire to terminate the Ripley’s clone, ending experiment because of this, but decide not to, to see what happens.
This suggests that in the fictional world of the “Alien” franchise, the Xenomorphs possess the ability to genetically pass on memories, and Ripley 8, as a clone, inherits both the memories of the original Ellen Ripley and the Xenomorphs, resulting in a complex combination of experiences and perspectives.
Another example of the clone remembering their past life through genetic memories. The Fifth Element (1997) Directed by Luc Besson is another excellent example of a film where DNA and genetic memory are key to the progress of the narrative. When the Fifth Element is transported back to the Earth in a spaceship and is destroyed on route by the Mangalores, there is only one survivor. The only survivor turns out to be just a severed hand holding a case. The scientist’s use the DNA material from the hand to create a clone. Leeloo is fully grown and complete with all her memories, grown in a machine, we see the cloning method as each layer is formed, the bones, muscles and veins with the final process, exposure to ultraviolet rays to form the skin. Leeloo is complete both in mind and body, the genetic memories encoded into her DNA. The memories are not complete, a scene shows her watching television, rapidly scrolling through images to catch up on recent Earth’s history, martial arts and society.

Memories, it’s in the Blood.
Horror film sub-genre – Vampire Films

As Gateward, Professor of Media Theory argues.
“There are so many vampire films in fact, with so many shared conventions of iconography, theme, and character, that the vampire film has become a genre in itself. And as film studies has illustrated, no genre is stagnant – they are reshaped and re-articulated by cultural circumstance”. (Gateward, 2004).

The Vampire Film Genre films share key elements such having vampires as the main characters, share visual and symbolic representations, share themes like immortality, blood, and darkness, and having shared narrative patterns. These common practises have evolved into the genre’s defining traits. This emphasises how genres, especially the vampire movie genre, are fluid and ever evolving. As a result of cultural context, they are subject to alteration and reconfiguration. The evolution and adaptation of genres in film has been shown to mirror the shifting social, political, and cultural settings in which they are created and viewed. This also implies that the vampire movie genre hasn’t remained constant over time, but rather has changed and evolved. New interpretations, concepts, and variations have been made in these films. The vampire film links into the concept of memories contained in the genetics of a human or bioengineered human like creature, such as Cyborgs and Clones, memory is in the DNA. This link between science fiction films and horror films parallels each other in how they represent prosthetic and genetic memory and how memories are also consumed by the vampires as they consume the living lifeforce through the drinking of their blood.
This concept is also readily accepted in the assumption of the power of Blood memory in vampire films a term I use to describe the acquisition of the victims memories through the drinking of their blood.
Blade (1998) is different as Blade while a vampire is also a Daywalker, immune from the terror of the Sun’s exposure. But this is a unique example of a vampire narrative where the vampire does not burn to ash upon exposure to the Sun. Blade isn’t a pure vampire he sits somewhere between vampire and human; he has all the strengths without the weaknesses. This ability to be able to exist in daylight allows for a new generation of vampire films that removes the effects of the sun on the vampire.
As Gateward states in her journal article.
“Blade, unlike the other vampires, who must rely on sunscreen to move about in the daylight, has no such sensitivity. The vampires in the film even use the term “Daywalker” as an epithet – analogous to half-breed throughout the film”. (Gateward, 2004).

As implied by the name “Daywalker” in the film, Blade is considered a hybrid or “half-breed” in the eyes of other vampires because he possesses traits from both vampires and humans. The fact that he can resist sunlight without suffering any negative consequences puts the conventional vampire mythology to the test and gives the narrative a distinctive dynamic and another example of the evolving genre of vampire films.
The genetic memory concept is introduced in the film Underworld (2003) the Vampire elders can extract memories from their victims by forcefully drinking their blood. They are also able to pass their memories down through the centuries through the sharing of blood, blood sorting. Conan the Barbarian (2011) Directed by Marcus Nispel. While not in the theme of vampire films the link to tasting blood to access memories is explored in the protagonist, Zyms daughter, Marique who inherited her mother’s witch like powers and can extract memories of her victims by scratching them with her extended fingernails and tasting the extracted blood to see memories as visions in the quest to track down Tamara the last surviving pure blood descendent of the sorcerers of Acheron. The memory is in the blood, the genetic memory, to clarify the vampire retains the memories of the victim through the taking of the blood. This is another form of prosthetic memory implantation through the taking of blood the genetic material which contains the memories of the victim. This links into the concept of prosthetic memory conceptualised in science fiction films rather than memory implantation using technology the implantation is through the consumption of genetic material through the taking of the blood. I define this as blood memory, the memories of the vampires victim is acquired through the drinking of their blood.

Second order memory
“Lieux de mémoire” refers to sites or spaces that hold symbolic significance and serve as repositories of collective memory. Traditionally, these could include physical locations such as museums, monuments, or historical landmarks. However, with the advent of electronic or audio-visual media, the concept of “lieux de mémoire” has expanded to encompass digital platforms like online archives, social media, or virtual reality experiences.
Electronic or audio-visual ‘lieux de memoire’ (sites of memory) have
created a kind of second order memory system that is fast becoming, a second order reality. (Grainge, 2018: 225)

The concept of “lieux de mémoire” (sites of memory) was originally introduced by the French historian Pierre Nora in his work of the same name, published in the 1980s. Nora’s idea was to explore how societies remember and commemorate their past through physical places, monuments, and tangible objects. These “sites of memory” are important because they serve as tangible anchors for collective memory, allowing societies to connect with and remember their history.

Grainge states or suggests that electronic or audio-visual representations of memory have created a second-order memory system that is evolving into a kind of second-order reality. This idea can be interpreted in several ways consider digital media and memory for example with the advent of digital technologies, we now have vast archives of audio-visual content that document our past. These can include photographs, videos, audio recordings, and digital documents. These digital representations of memory have become increasingly important in society. Then there are the advances in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies have allowed for the creation of immersive experiences that can transport individuals into historical or imagined environments. These experiences can create a sense of “second-order reality” by simulating historical events or settings. Another example is online platforms and social media which have become sites of collective memory. People share personal stories, photos, and videos online, creating a digital archive of personal and shared memories. These online spaces can shape how people remember and interpret events.

Grainge also alludes to the idea that media representations of events and history can shape people’s perception of reality. In the age of digital media, these representations can have a significant impact on how individuals and societies construct their understanding of the world. In effect what Grainge is arguing that electronic and audio-visual representations of memory are becoming increasingly influential in shaping our collective memory and even our understanding of reality. They can create new layers of meaning and interpretation, and they have the potential to influence how societies remember and engage with their past. This concept is particularly relevant in the context of the digital age, where information and media are easily accessible and widely disseminated.
This highlights the transformative power of electronic or audio-visual sites of memory, arguing that they have established a secondary memory system that is increasingly influencing how we understand the past and how we perceive the environment. This is an interesting statement a slight deviation from the prosthetic memory argument, but somewhat aligned, the idea of a second order memory system. One individual with two memories, one real memory one not, possibly prosthetic this suggests that such an individual would also have dual identities too.

When considering films with brainwashing as a central theme, false memories are imprinted into the protagonist’s brain using audio and visual methods, these prosthetic memories form a ‘second order memory’ for the subject. In effect a second identity, a dual identity this second identity usually a significant departure from the protagonist’s identity and reality. For example, in the film Ghost in the Shell (2017) Major’s short-term memories are prosthetic, upon activation her consciousness was derived from these memories, her imprinted memories and the role as a Sector 9 operative dominates her life and creates a false identity. This false identity created by the scientists to weaponize her, to use her abilities to uphold the law against terrorists, just like the ones that caused the drowning of her parents and almost her own death. Gradually her real memories (her genetic memory) and identity leak through the prosthetic memory imprint, her second order memories revealed in flashbacks before now begin to take over. Her second order memories become first order memories as the memory leak takes over and Major realises her life since actuation as a cyborg is a lie. This argument offers possibilities to expand the terminology for this type of memory in films. I would suggest that prosthetic memories are interchangeable with false memories in this case but with the caveat that not all prosthetic memories are false memories. When the protagonist is imprinted with false memories then as Radstone states the link between false and prosthetic memories can be argued.
“In problematising oppositions between authentic and false memories, and between real and virtual experience, theories of cinema and prosthetic memory usher in a world in which prosthetic memories can enhance understanding of others ( . . . )“ (Radstone and Schwarz, 2016: 355)

This argument or statement suggests that theories of cinema and prosthetic memory provide a framework that challenges conventional distinctions between real and virtual experiences and true and false memories. In a world where the distinctions between memory, experience, and understanding become increasingly ambiguous, this viewpoint creates opportunities for synthetic memories to deepen our understanding of others and foster empathy.

Spy Films and Brainwashing

The Ipcress File (1965) Directed by Sidney J. Furie and beautifully shot by Otto Heller, a spy film with brainwashing as the central theme. Harry Palmer is tasked to recover a highly valued British scientist that has been kidnapped. Otto Heller makes extensive use of framing, filming through the windows of a telephone box, car windows and doors a reflection in a car mirror alternating with Dutch angles. Bordwell in the context of film style in the 1960’s and comparing with French New Wave films by Jean Luc Goddard
These framing techniques add together to disorientate the spectator. The cinematography seemingly prepares the spectator for the disorientation that comes in the brainwashing scenes.
The kidnapped scientist is recovered but appears to have lost the ability to recall his research, the memories have gone, a victim of the brainwashing techniques known as IPCRESS. The audio tape recovered in the search for the missing scientist is investigated and when played back in a continuous loop a recurring sound is heard, not music but a sequence of sounds appearing to be meaningless. The effect of this audio-visual confusion is to imprint false memories, brainwashing.
Lopes considers the effect of substituting memories and states.
“Films directly address the threshold of reality and fiction; memory from first-hand experience or a construction from another mediated memory.” (Lopes, Ncc and Bastos, 2019: 2).

Suggesting that films explore the boundary between reality and fiction while challenging the distinction between memory derived from first-hand experience and memory constructed from mediated sources. By presenting narratives that combine elements of reality and fiction, films prompt spectators to question the nature of memory and the influence of mediated narratives on our recollection of events. This ties in with the idea of prosthetic memories. These false memories, that is his prosthetic memories, combined with the trigger phrase words ‘now listen to me’ are used by the real traitor and double agent to control Harry’s actions. Other films with a similar trope are the Manchurian Candidate (1962) directed by John Frankenheimer, and the remake of the same name Manchurian Candidate (2014) directed by Jonathan Demme.

Gateward, F. (2004) Genders OnLine Journal – Presenting innovative theories in art, literature, history, music, TV and film., Genders Online Journal. Available at: (Accessed: 17 February 2021).
Grainge, P. (2018) ‘Memory and popular film’, in Memory and popular film. doi: 10.1111/j.1537-4726.2004.141_16.x.
Landsberg, A. (2004) Prosthetic Memory : The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture. New York: Columbia University Press. Available at:,shib&user=s1523151.
Lopes, M. M., Ncc, I. and Bastos, P. B. (2019) ‘Memory ( Enhancement ) and Cinema : an exploratory creative overview’.
Radstone, S. and Schwarz, B. (2010) ‘Memory’, in Radstone, Susannah and Shwarz, B. (eds), pp. 325–342.
Schwab, G. (1987) ‘Cyborgs. Postmodern Phantasms of Body and Mind’, Discourse, 9, pp. 64–84. Available at:
Treffert, D. (2015) Genetic Memory: How We Know Things We Never Learned – Scientific American Blog Network. Available at: (Accessed: 4 February 2021).

Abstract – Prosthetic Memory

A Film Practice Experimental Film “Memories Of Shiqi” (2021)

Memories Of Shiqi

This was my first experimental film.

What was my aim for this film? I needed a film that explored some of the concepts from my research into memory conceptualisation in film and cinema memories. After some research I identified that making an experimental film would be the perfect option, remember this was made during the epidemic and under severe restrictions. Limited crew and outside locations only.

It was heavily influenced by the experimental films and works of Maya Deren, this influence extended to my decision to shoot the film on celluloid (Super 8). While not a copy of Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) there are many similarities for example each scene is a metaphor a surreal and dreamlike exploration of the subconscious. There is the symbolism, exploring themes of identity and human experience. Add to this a fragmented visual history of the past interspersed with a timeline broken up with montage sequences exploring a life lived on two continents and two cultures. Metaphors for example, the loneliness of playing tennis against a wall, being trapped behind bars, and of course Death.

I was also influenced by the works of Stan Brakhage. Stan Brakhage is an experimental filmmaker renowned for his unique and abstract visual style. He often worked without a camera, directly painting, or scratching on film stock. His approach is marked by a rejection of traditional narrative and a focus on the materiality of film. Brakhage’s theories, expressed in his writings and interviews, emphasize the importance of visual perception and the power of the image to evoke emotions and feelings. I knew from experimenting with film that the results may be distorted or beyond my control. This uncertainty began from the outset of filming using old film stock and cameras barely working. The film processing added to this as the colours and textures were distorted a false colour that proved that what you see/film is not what you get a non-authentic visual a distorted reality.

The second half of my experimental film explores this distorted reality further introducing new characters “The Creepy Girls” who appear in different locations interacting with the camera in a similar fashion. Exploring gender and identity the subjects interact with the camera directly, the camera becomes a fourth member through its point of view. There are overlays of multiple locations where the creepy girls now appear to float in this surreal world, moving through space and time and interacting with the camera.

This relationship with the camera introduces a structuralist element to the film, the audience is now aware of the camera the qualities of using film, This is now more evident as a medium, the materiality of film, and its ability to manipulate time, space, and audience perception.

Although there is no narrative I added to the titles a date and “This is a True Story” I meant this to add some appearance of control over the audience’s perspective. Is this film about Shiqi’s death? I even added what appears to a be death scene. At the time this seemed appropriate with so many losing their lives to the epidemic, but did she die?

Experimental Film Practice – Memories Of Shiqi et al

Bioengineered Humans: Clones and Synthetic Memories – Genetic

Clones and Synthetic Memories

Genetic Memory

Explores the concept of bioengineered humans in the context of clones and synthetic memories, using the film “Oblivion” as a reference point. It delves into the protagonist’s journey of realising his true identity as a clone and uncovering the manipulation of his memories.

The chapter discusses the idea of genetic memory, where the memories of the original are copied genetically within the clone’s brain. It also touches upon the vulnerability of memories to external influences and the potential for distortions or mutations.

The theme of control, manipulation, and environmental consequences is explored, highlighting the conflicts and fragmented identity of the protagonist. The chapter further references other films such as “Blade Runner,” “Moon,” and “The Island” which also explore the trope of clones unaware of their true nature.

Ghost In The Shell

The concept of genetic memories is proposed as a cinematic explanation for how newly created bioengineered beings, such as clones, possess immediate functioning abilities and memories of the original subject.

The notion of genetic memory raises questions about the nature of learning and autonomous functions in both human and cloned beings.

Abstract – Prosthetic Memory

Thesis: Memory Conceptualisation in Film:


Introduction: Thesis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abstract Collective Memory and Cultural Memory

Abstract – Prosthetic Memory

Abstract – Flashbacks and Memory

Abstract Collective Memory and Cultural Memory

The Limey Wilson in car scene

Collective Memory and Cultural Memory

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

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

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

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

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

Abstract – Prosthetic Memory

Abstract – Prosthetic Memory

The Matrix

Prosthetic Memory

Blade Runner 2049
Blade Runner 2049

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


Abstract – Flashbacks and Memory

Brainwashing dutch angle


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

Abstract for a Film Practice


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

Chris Marker – La Jetèe et al

Chris Marker time traveler and filmmaker

La Jetée is a short experimental film directed by Chris Marker and released in 1962. The film is notable for its unique structure and its use of still images, rather than live-action footage, to tell its story. The film tells the story of a man who is sent back in time from a post-apocalyptic future to the present day to prevent the disaster that led to the destruction of civilization. The man’s journey takes him to different moments in history, but his focus is on his own past and a traumatic event that he witnessed as a child. One of the most distinctive features of La Jetée is its use of still images. Marker was inspired by the photographic sequences used in documentaries and newsreels, and he used a series of carefully composed photographs to create the film’s visual style. The images are accompanied by a voiceover narration that tells the story, with occasional snippets of sound and music added for effect.

The film’s themes of memory, time travel, and the human experience of trauma have made it a classic of the science fiction genre. It has been praised for its imaginative storytelling and its innovative use of the medium of film. Its influence can be seen in later works of science fiction cinema, such as Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys, which was directly inspired by La Jetée. The phrase “Still image is death, film is life” is a quote from Chris Marker, the director of La Jetée. The quote reflects Marker’s belief that still images, while they can be powerful and evocative, are ultimately static and limited in their ability to capture the fullness of life. Film, on the other hand, allows for the passage of time and the evolution of a story, making it a more dynamic and engaging medium.

In La Jetée, Marker used still images to create a dreamlike, otherworldly atmosphere, but he also recognized the limitations of this approach. The film’s use of voiceover narration and occasional sound effects helped to bring the story to life, creating a more immersive and engaging experience for the viewer. Overall, Marker’s quote highlights the unique power of film to capture the essence of life and the passage of time, and it reflects his innovative approach to filmmaking and his belief in the importance of storytelling. Memory is a central theme in La Jetée. The film’s protagonist is sent back in time from a post-apocalyptic future to the present day to prevent the disaster that led to the destruction of civilization. His journey takes him to different moments in history, but his focus is on his own past and a traumatic event that he witnessed as a child. Throughout the film, the protagonist grapples with the fragility and unreliability of memory. His memories of the past are often hazy and incomplete, and he struggles to piece together the events that led to the apocalypse. At the same time, his experiences in the present day begin to shape his memories of the past, blurring the line between reality and fantasy.

The film also explores the ways in which memory can be a source of trauma and pain. The protagonist’s traumatic childhood memory haunts him throughout his journey, and he is forced to confront it repeatedly as he travels through time. His attempts to change the past are driven in part by a desire to escape this painful memory and prevent the disaster that it foreshadows. Overall, memory plays a complex and multifaceted role in La Jetée, shaping the protagonist’s journey and the film’s exploration of time, identity, and the human experience of trauma.

There are several films that explore similar themes to La Jetée, particularly the themes of memory, time travel, and the human experience of trauma. Here are a few examples:

• Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – This film, directed by Michel Gondry, tells the story of a couple who undergo a procedure to erase their memories of each other after a painful breakup. The film uses non-linear storytelling and surreal imagery to explore the ways in which memories shape our relationships and our sense of self.
• Primer (2004) – This low-budget science fiction film, directed by Shane Carruth, follows a group of friends who accidentally invent a time machine and must grapple with the ethical and personal consequences of their invention. The film uses a complex and non-linear narrative structure to explore the intricacies of time travel and the paradoxes it creates.
• Memento (2000) – This film, directed by Christopher Nolan, tells the story of a man with short-term memory loss who is searching for his wife’s killer. The film uses a non-linear narrative structure, with scenes presented in reverse order, to explore the protagonist’s fractured sense of self and his struggle to make sense of his memories.
• Solaris (1972) – This science fiction film, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, follows a psychologist who travels to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris, where the crew members are experiencing hallucinations and strange phenomena. The film uses surreal imagery and a contemplative pace to explore the nature of consciousness, memory, and the human experience of isolation and loneliness.

Overall, these films, along with La Jetée, use science fiction and surreal imagery to explore complex and challenging themes related to memory, time, and the human experience of trauma.

While Solaris and La Jetée share some similarities in terms of their exploration of memory and the human experience of isolation and loneliness, they are quite different films in terms of their style and approach. La Jetée, as I mentioned earlier, is an experimental short film that uses still images and a voiceover narration to tell its story. The film has a dreamlike, otherworldly atmosphere, and its use of non-linear storytelling and surreal imagery creates a sense of disorientation and ambiguity. The film is highly stylized, and its focus on memory and time travel is primarily used to explore themes related to the human experience of trauma and loss. In contrast, Solaris is a full-length feature film that tells a more straightforward narrative story, although it too uses surreal imagery and a contemplative pace. The film follows a psychologist who travels to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris, where he discovers that the crew members are experiencing strange hallucinations and phenomena. The film explores themes of memory and identity, as the protagonist grapples with the nature of consciousness and the boundaries between reality and fantasy.

While both films deal with themes of memory and isolation, Solaris is a more expansive and philosophical exploration of these themes, whereas La Jetée is more focused on the personal and emotional impact of trauma. Additionally, while Solaris is a science fiction film, it is more grounded in the conventions of traditional narrative storytelling than La Jetée, which is highly experimental and abstract. Both La Jetée and Solaris explore the theme of trauma in different ways. In La Jetée, the protagonist’s traumatic childhood memory is a central focus of the film. The protagonist is sent back in time to prevent the disaster that he witnessed as a child, and his journey is driven in part by a desire to escape the pain and trauma of that memory. The film uses non-linear storytelling and surreal imagery to explore the fragmented nature of memory and the emotional impact of trauma. In Solaris, the theme of trauma is explored through the character of Kris Kelvin, the psychologist who travels to the space station. Kelvin is haunted by memories of his dead wife, and he struggles to come to terms with his own feelings of guilt and loss. As the film progresses, Kelvin becomes increasingly isolated and disconnected from reality, as he confronts the nature of consciousness and the limitations of his own perception.

Both films use science fiction and surreal imagery to create a sense of disorientation and ambiguity, reflecting the fragmented nature of memory and the emotional impact of trauma. They also both suggest that the experience of trauma can be isolating and alienating, creating a sense of disconnection from the world and from oneself. Overall, while the two films take different approaches to explore the theme of trauma, they both offer powerful and thought-provoking meditations on the nature of memory, consciousness, and the human experience of pain and loss.

Experimental Film Practice – Memories Of Shiqi et al

Avant-Garde and the Experimental Film – Reflections on a film practice

Film Practice Seashell and the Clergyman

Film practice

Reflections on my film practice

As I intended in my film Memories Of Shiqi I wanted the audience to accept this film was a true story but leave them with questions, what is the real story?

Fargo: Director Ethan Coen first explained why the pair added the “true story” disclaimer to the film, saying, “We wanted to make a movie just in the genre of a true story movie. You don’t have to have a true story to make a true story movie.” (Bradley, 2016)

In my film, there are visual clues that indicate that Shiqi’s death may have been a possible outcome. Was this just to shock the audience with the main protagonist’s death or do the dates just signify the historical period that the film is concerned with? As an experimental filmmaker this is just one of my intentions, to create this uncertainty to leave the audience with a puzzle, is my film effectively an obituary? The film has a non-linear timeline, time is relative in my films there is a beginning and an end, but the sequence of the film is not a linear time sequence the visuals are not sequenced in a rigid order but the images are sometimes matched visually or by action or indeed location. Rees argues that “The notion of film as primarily a time-based art is central to the avant-garde, even though the shaping of time is common to all cinemas. But the experimental tradition puts film time at the core of its project.” (Rees, 2011: 6).

Film Practice Shiqi in the Lake District

On reflection on my film practice  “Memories Of Shiqi “, is a product of both the combination of the different film capture technologies employed, analogue film and digital film and the editing processes. Context is not a major consideration with scenes of childhood revealed through the montage sequence is interspersed before and after with adult scenes, I am not attempting to create a linear time sequence. Locations also have meaning in the film but are not sequenced together juxtaposed between locations in Wuhan, China, and Lancaster, England. The images are linked through matching shots, making comparisons between time, the locations, and through the montage of images. However, I wanted to specifically match some of the visuals together so I would be able to juxtapose archival footage next to contemporary footage through actions. For example, the sequences of Shiqi skateboarding in the hallway of her home in Wuhan and sliding down the hallway of her temporary home in Lancaster. In another scene we see Shiqi walking, shielding her eyes from the sun using a hat, in editing using a vertical mask dividing the screen equally into two halves, the images are separated but combined on the screen, together each form one half of the screen a flashback of the other combined with a matching shot but separated by both the years and by locations.

Some of these editing processes were influenced by Soderbergh’s film The Limey (1999), with its discontinuous editing and manipulation of the timeline, and the reversal of the opening scenes and the end scenes. My film parallels this, the opening scene at the station is of Shiqi’s departure, she is shown waiting for a train at Lancaster station, yet later scenes show her at the Castle’s entrance. The audience may be confused and possibly incorrectly decides this opening scene is where Shiqi arrives, but there are no visuals of Shiqi arriving on a train only those of her and her suitcase on the station’s platform seemingly waiting for a train to depart. I originally had train sequences both at the beginning and end of the film, a conventional beginning, and a conventional end but I removed the train’s departure visuals intended as the end sequence and replaced it with a scene set in a hospital. The hospital scene is another possible ending to the film, the mise-en-scene, a typical hospital bed, medical instruments, and Shiqi wearing a gown, she appears to have breathing problems and she struggles to breathe with the aid of an oxygen mask, she also appears to die. This is a misdirection leading the audience to believe this is the actual ending of the film and at the same time reinforces the original misdirection attached to the dates in the opening credits, “A True Story”. I have assumed that the spectator watches my film in sequence, from the perspective of a linear timeline, there is a beginning and an end, a resolution, a classic Hollywood narrative but as Hayward states that

“In terms of perception, the movement-image is our linear experience of the film’s narrative. But, as we can also gather, this experience is not a passive one; the spectator enjoys multiple points of view; perception is thereby multiple, even though we have followed an essentially straightforward narrative (based on the principle of ‘what happens next?’).” (Hayward, 2018: 265).

Film Practice Memories Of Shiqi

As I have stated, my film does not truly follow the principles of the classic Hollywood narrative there is no true beginning or end, the film starts and finishes but there is no narrative just a non-linear sequence of visuals that inform. My intention was to create a montage of visuals elements for the spectator to assemble in order and determined from their unique perspective, effectively creating their own narrative and memory of the film. This by using the basis of collective memory and the acceptance that each social group forms a different memory based on their viewing experience. Bordwell argues that a montage is a form of narrative,

“One type of scene, no matter where it occurs in the film, is a highly overt mark of narration: the montage sequence. Its main purpose was to condense a large-scale process or an extensive passage of time so that a trip could be shown through a montage of travel stickers pasted onto a suitcase, or a trial rendered by a cascade of newspaper headlines.” (Bordwell, 2006: 49).

In Memories Of Shiqi montage is used to condense the passage of time with its sequence of childhood photographs covering the early years. Montage is also used to jump locations, between continents with video sequences from China, Europe, and the United Kingdom featuring in the film’s timeline matching shots, actions, and juxtaposing locations.

Film Practice contimues


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