“Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They’re just an interpretation, they’re not a record, and they’re irrelevant if you have the facts.” – Leonard Shelby, Memento
I recently got sucked into one of those “Bourne” marathons that are on cable every so often, and I started thinking about the concept of memory as it applies to movies. My friends often tell me that I have a very good memory, with one even saying that I remember his own life better than he does. And yet somehow, I am drawn to characters who are the opposite – amnesiacs and people who have willfully twisted or deleted their own memories. I had an English teacher in high school who said that the two most important things you could give a character that you were writing were a name and a birthdate; without those, a character didn’t have an identity. Yet in a movie like “Drive,” where Ryan Gosling’s protagonist is known only as “Driver,” or “Fight Club,” where Edward Norton’s protagonist is essentially nameless (though 18-year-old spoiler alert notwithstanding, he really is Tyler Durden), the character’s lack of identity isn’t detrimental; in fact, it’s essential to how they act. If Gosling’s character were tied down in any way, he wouldn’t be able to, well, drive as well as he does. If Edward Norton’s character were more fully formed, you wouldn’t believe that he’d invent a Brad Pitt alter ego to change the world.
With that in mind, I think the three movies/franchises that best deal with a lack of memory are the aforementioned “Bourne” movies, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” and, of course, “Memento.” Continue reading