4 Elements - Film Seminar
Memory is the process in which we experience situations and emotions we have already been through; the evocation of bygone actions and worlds. Film is thus a mnemonic device; a memory medium in a number of ways.
As a memory medium, film can transfer the past, or rather the interpretation of the past, into the present moment, visualising it on the screen. Even our personal memory is just an interpretation. Everyone tends to remember a situation differently. After all, only a part of what we perceive is perceived through our senses. Most of it is quite possibly retrieved back from our minds in form of memories and associations. Every good police investigator would agree: Every witness will give their own account of the truth. Film as a medium of historical memory is important. Since fiction affects reality dramatically, film has the ability to interpret the past and change the world. This does not concern only historical or documentary films, but also those based on real events, political films and films d'auteur.
Looking at film as a medium memory is just as interesting. Film reminisces about cinematography, recycles it, stimulates it, and plays with it. Self-reflexive films, films about filmmaking, experimental films comprised of bits of old films or films about the history of film – the category is quite numerous, even if not as numerous as the previous one. It is not only the film theorists and critics who find such films interesting. Very often, they are acclaimed even by the public, become popular, and thrive for generations.
Finally yet importantly, many films deal with memory as such. Some of these, dealing with the peculiar phenomenon that memory is, were screened last year in Marienbad. However, the amount of such films is not restricted by only those that are widely-known and we are not even mentioning the novel genre. The whole Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust revolves around a memory. People have been fascinated by memory since time immemorial. We assign it various properties, refer to it and doubt it constantly. And despite the new, ever-appearing outcomes of cognitive sciences, we still don’t have a clear idea of what memory actually is. It is true that memory, the very object of the research, tends to get lost in the mass of all the new information. Moreover, everything gets even more complicated when déja vu comes into play. If you think your life is as busy as a minefield, inspect your memory and the memories of others thoroughly and you will start to feel differently about it.
It is not to be forgotten that ‘reading’ and interpreting works of art (including those dealing with memory) is only possible in the common net of the accepted conventions and the existing invisible steering mechanisms, determined by our own, personal memory.