Film As Memory

Some of cinemas most beautiful and significant moments have come from filmmakers attempting to recreate their memories. Memory and film share many qualities, and as such it is often explored by filmmakers. Film is unique as an art form as it can not only recreate memories and capture them, but, as I’ve realized lately, alter them as well.

Over the last couple of weeks, much of my time has been spent transferring onto my computer dozens upon dozens of hours of footage I’ve shot since the beginning of high school. The footage ranges from my friends making fires in the woods, to family weddings and attempted short films, often all on one tape.

As I uploaded one tape, it cut to a group of students on a bus on their way to a camping trip. I recognized some of the faces and simply assumed I was the one holding the camera. Upon revisiting the footage, I realized it was not my memory. A friend from another school had borrowed the camera years ago, and I had forgotten. Due to the fact it was my own tape, I did not question whether it was my own memory or not. I have come to rely on these tapes, as so much of my memory of high school is remembered through what has survived on them.

Film and memory have become almost one and the same to me. Film has a certain importance in terms of my memory that might not be shared by all. I see my past as not entirely dream-like but rather in standard-definition DV footage.

Like film, our memories are at a distance. However, unlike the medium, our memories are malleable. They change over time, we remember them incorrectly, adding details that alter what really happened. A few films have not only created memories for me, but have even altered existing memories forever. It is only the most significant films in my life that have the power to change the way I see my past. The films I have watched dozens of times, obsessed over and memorized.

In high school, I became obsessed with Michel Gondry’s incredibly under-appreciated The Science of Sleep. The raw emotions in the film connected with me in a way that few films had before, and it forever changed the way I saw heartbreak and disappointment in my own life. Similarly, the impact that films like Where The Wild Things Are and The Tree of Life have had on me have changed the way I see my childhood. I can no longer look back to my memories of being a kid without seeing them through the lens of Jonze or Malick. This is, of course, not necessarily a bad thing. In many ways, it is a testament to the power of film, or maybe to the weakness of memory.

It is important to recognize that while film may only be on screen, it can still affect the way we see the world. It is one of the many reasons why I love film. It has the power to change the way we see the world, and in some cases, how we see what has already passed us by.

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2 Responses to Film As Memory

  1. Sometimes I think there is a danger to relying on a third party such as a journal or film for our memories. The stories of our past are meant to mutate in our minds, melding from fact, to story and into legends. There is a magic in that.

  2. Pingback: Today’s Links – June 4, 2012 | RyanGallagher.org

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