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Projection of Memory in World Cinema

Discuss About The Branigan Edward Narrative Comprehension Film.

Memories constitute the events and incidences of the past of an individual. These memories could both be bitter and sweet. Memories help individuals look back in life and they often use memories to remember or forget their past. It is also interesting to note that memory has always been a mediator of the present. In simpler words, whatever one does or says in the present is influenced by his or her memory of the past, whether it’s the immediate past or distant past. Memories could be individual as well as collective and hence these present an interesting interpretation by those who possess these memories. A memory associated to different individuals could be bitter for one and sweet for the other and this influences its interpretation. Memories also contribute significantly to the creation of history, although history is impersonal and objective. Apart from that, memories also contribute towards understanding one’s culture. As Van Dijck notes, “Besides being of personal values, collections of mediated memories, management, are also interesting as objects of cultural analysis”.  In cinema, this concept of memory has been used in different ways in order to create an impact on the audience.

The aim of this essay is to discuss memory as being mediated in the present in relation to the two films chosen namely “Memento” and “Schindler’s List”. The essay will first highlight the projection of memory is world cinema and then focus on the two films mentioned above to analyze the filmmakers’ use of memory as mediated in the present.


Filmmakers across the globe have been always fascinated by the concept of memory and have used it in their films to attract audiences. As Radstone (p. 326) states, “models of memory as cinema, cinema as memory and cinema/memory all elaborate differently nuanced understandings of cinema and of memory”. The author here tries to highlight the fact that cinema and memory are interlinked as cinema explores the intricacies of memory and memory uses cinema for figuring. The author further states that cinema was never the initial medium that informed the audiences about the comprehensions of memory and neither did memory or its metaphorical clichés confined itself to cinema or even the media. A better understanding of this relationship between memory and cinema could be understood by using an example of a film based on memory, which is Christopher Nolan’s “Memento”.

Memory Mediation in Memento

“Memento”, released in the year 2000, depicts the story of Leonard Shelby (played by Guy Pearce), an insurance investigator who had a tragic incident where his wife was raped and murdered and left him with a life-long illness. The illness was his short-term memory loss or anterograde amnesia. He then tries to hunt down the killer and avenge his wife’s death. However, the audiences are left guessing and puzzled right from the start of the movie till the end. The very first scene is quite puzzling as everything reverses; the bullet goes back into the gun, the photograph back into the camera. This is the starting point for the audience to understand Leonard’s struggle with memory. The entire journey of how he reached to the point of murdering the guy is shown in reverse. The filmmaker lets the audience feel the protagonist’s condition by displaying only a short segment of the past memory leading up to the present event. In this way, he clearly establishes the short-term memory loss condition of his lead character. Here the lead character forgets the memories that are formed in his present and become his immediate past. However, he remembers his distant past that also has a connection with his present. Therefore, the forgetting and remembering of memory are mediated in the present.

The movie is mostly concerned about the “temporal anchoring in relation to forgetting and with technological externalization of memory” as Cameron (p. 95-97) observes. The author further notes that the story is narrated in reverse sequential order. The author states the reverse order has been used to correspond to the lead character’s “disjunctive temporal experience”. The struggle with memory by Leonard is understood clearly by the audience as he tries hard to remember things by tattooing on his body and taking notes and photographs. He is strained to re-organize himself during each incident, learn the names of every individual he has met already and outline the things that have been happening. Although he dwells in an incoherent temporal universe, Leonard keenly works to memorize and contextualize actions and people and depends upon his long-term memory to stimulate what he does or is doing in the present. However, it is interesting to note that the present as depicted in the movie is also not actually the present; it is the past or the memory of Leonard’s past that only the audience are aware of and not the lead character.

Use of Flashbacks in Memento


Flashbacks are often used in films to show the memory or memories of the lead character through voice over or narration. In “Memento”, however, the narrator is the lead character himself who is shown talking over the phone with someone (later discovered to a cop) and the image is black and white. The use of B & W picture is also used to indicate flashback. It is but important to state that the flashback here is not that of the character himself, as he has a short-term memory loss; the audiences view it as the flashback. An understanding of flashbacks in films could be possible from the work of Branigan in which the author states that flashbacks could be either objective or subjective. According to the author, both subjective and objective flashbacks are “often stubbornly independent of the character’s recollection”. In “Memento” however, these flashbacks are mostly objective because the character has no role in introducing the present or the past to the audiences.

Another interesting feature of the movie is its confusing yet peculiarly linear style of narrative. On one hand, Leonard talks over the phone in a motel room shot in B & W, which shows the character’s ‘present’ time and the events move forwards chronologically. On the other hand, the picture in color shows the events moving chronologically but backwards. The two forward and backward moving narratives overlap in the last section of the movie and together move forward. Leonard is seen killing a guy named Jimmy Grants whom he mistaken as the killer. The scene gradually turns in color as the lead character disposes off the body and wears his clothes. Here the audiences also grasp the situation that the colored picture was the following sequence of the B & W picture. The audiences have been moving inevitably nearer to a meeting with the B & W sequences while moving backwards throughout the movie.

In spite of the movie’s increased stress on external mediation, it has apparently not bestowed with the psychology of its character and his memory. The movie demonstrates an apprehension with temporal attachment. The lead character’s necessity to memorize and take revenge of his wife’s death, and his frantic effort to preserve present information, correspond the postmodern individual’s need “to live in extended structures of temporality, however they may be organized” (p. 98).  These indicate the link between the past memories and the present situation of individuals as depicted in Christopher Nolan’s “Memento”. The movie depicts a contrasting situation for the audiences in which they view the past memories of the lead character as flashbacks while the character himself struggles to remember his immediate memories.

Linear Narrative Style in Memento

Another character is introduced in the movie through the lead character, Sammy Jankis. Leonard frequently mentions this name and tries to relate the problem of remembering or keeping memories to that of Sammy’s. The audiences are made known that Sammy Jankis too had similar condition like Leonard but he was not able to cope with it because he had no motive and he was not organized. As Leonard states in one of the scenes shot in B & W, “I'm disciplined and organized. I use habit and routine to make my life possible. Sammy had no drive. No reason to make it work”. The audiences are therefore assured that the protagonist will be able to rectify his present because he has a strong motive to do so and because he is disciplined in remembering his immediate past.

It is thus clearly evident from the above discussion of the movie that memory, whether forgetting or remembering is intermediary to the present. People keep making memories with each incidence or event that happens to them in their present. The movie “Memento” depicts this very interestingly as the memories are created in a reverse management. In simple words, the audiences witness the present at first and are then left curios to be revealed what had happened in the past that influenced the incidents in the present. Christopher Nolan, as a filmmaker achieves brilliancy in depicting the interlinking between the past and the present. Therefore, through the analysis of the movie “Memento”, it is evident that memories are always mediated in the present.

In the Mood for love is the one of the popular romantic Hong Kong film produced in the year 2000. The story has was developed on the newspaper editor and his wife. In this movie the director has tried to highlight anger, shock, doubt, love and romance. The strong bond between two neighbour and their love story has been highlighted. In this movie the different phrase of their life and phrase of their love story by highlighting the extramarital suspense. The Chow Mo-Wan is the journalist in the movie, who has taken the rent in the same appointment of Su Li-Zhen. They have become the next door neighbour. Both of them work the overtime shift. Both of them fall for each other. Through this movie the director has tried to highlight that most of the times they find themselves in the home alone.

Impact of Memory on Present in Memento


In the movie In the Mood for Love, the director has explored the unfulfilled relationships and the issues of memory and time. This movie is consisted in the temporal labyrinth where the present designs get past as well as future. The past is concealed under present events that can be guessed only. The present as well as what seemed to be the nearest future is inhabited by the same people, intermingled with as well as complete one another. The border of these time frames is becoming fluent hence it is never to be determined that trajectory represents the reality of the characters which pose phantasm. In this particular movie the audience find it confusing to understand the labyrinthine quality of time which is illustrative of the processes governing memory. It is mingled with the director’s dense visuality then poses a picture of duration.

The natural and temporal flow of the movies gets disturbed by the fragmentation and repetitions. The retro or futurospections are introduced abruptly by interchneging among the past, present and the future. Despite the fact that the audience knows that the film is taking place between 1966 and 1969, they become disoriented by different type of information regarding time for example, “a hundred hours later” or “eighteen months later” which takes the audiences beyond the year 1970. Apart from this, the taxi presented in this movie seems to be the time machine analyses a role similar to a futuristic train. This reflects the belief that the memories can never be escaped from. The street lights in the rain reflected in the last window seem to be the flashes of memory. Moreover, the lyrical dancelike movement of the camera capture the nostalgia and contemporaneity of time. In this movie the constant presence of way of farming and mirrors invalidate the characters presence have been discussed. This can be said that the mirroring image consequences as in off centre farming, bisections, refractions and angularities.

 Depending on the individuals’ characters the shorts are being composed. In this study, it has been analysed that the mirror reflections has been discussed in this case of the movie in the flat door scene. The mirrors multiply characters and space in such manner in that a time viewers become confused in the case of analysing the characters of mirror reflection. It can be said that the mirror reflection can be considered as the uncertain situation. In this case it is very difficult to analyse if the scene happened or it is needed tobe remembered or not. The important part of this film is here the mystery and understatement of the past and the discovering the actual fact of this story and its impossibility has been plotted beautifully. Another important character has been introduced in the mirror image. This character is metaphorically introduces the parallelism of the actions and times. In this study the enhancements of labyrinthine quality of the claustrophobia and space of the characters and interference have been highlighted through the characters of being or feeling lost.


This can be said that in the last fifteenth year, this is the most significant initiatives taken by the director in the case of the analysing the growing preoccupation with the nostalgia and memory. It has been identified that the dominant ideology is being shifted to the views of this film. In this movie the capitalism, patriarchy and dominant ideology have been overturned. On the other hand, here the traditional way has been followed for transforming the viewers’ perspective. The master narratives of the major events have been focused on the public activities. The public activities have shifted for including the perspective and experience of the ordinary person. In this study, it has been highlighted that in the case of energy from the different production circumstances share the large number of features such as reconstruction process, developing the amalgamation of the past and present. Fiction and footage. Here the director has highlighted that the memory and identity. By mentioning the presents of the film, the unreliable accounts of events and its influence through the tangible melancholy has been highlighted in this study. Therefore, this can be said that ‘In the mood for love’ film has described about the temporal labyrinth has been discussed. Here the importance of the present shapes of the future and past have been highlighted. Here the study has also mentioned that the past is being concealed that the under the present event.  This can be guessed that depending on the present the future memory is being analysed.

References:

Branigan, Edward. Narrative comprehension and film. Routledge, 2013.

Cameron, accounting. "Modular narratives in contemporary cinema." Modular Narratives in Contemporary Cinema. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2008. 1-19.

Front, Sonia. 2018, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303843741_Labyrinth_of_Time_in_Wong_Kar-Wai's_In_the_Mood_for_Love_and_2046. Accessed 12 June 2018.

Imdb.com. "Memento (2000)". Imdb, 2018, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0209144/plotsummary?ref_=tt_stry_pl#synopsis. Accessed 12 June 2018.

Radstone, Susannah, and Bill Schwarz. Memory: Histories, theories, debates. Fordham University Press, 2017.

Sadashige, Jacqui, and Kar-wai Wong. "In The Mood For Love". The American Historical Review, vol 106, no. 4, 2001, p. 1513. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/2693166.

Van Dijck, José. "Mediated memories: personal cultural memory as object of cultural analysis." Continuum 18.2 (2004): 261-277.

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