We all have memories we want to forget. Whether it’s the trauma of abuse from our youth or the stupid thing we said in an important meeting, everyone longs for a simple solution to erase our memories. Memory is such a fickle element of our minds, but it is usually driven by emotions. We are more likely to recall happy memories of a summer day when we smell a sun-drenched field. We are more likely to recall a hurtful breakup when a certain song plays on the radio. We are more likely to recall an embarrassing firing when we see a particular business’ building. While just removing the stimulus for these memories is one way to help us forget, the underlying emotions still linger. As scientists research methods of restoring the memories of Alzheimer patients, nobody is performing the corollary research to help people forget. This week’s two films look at the repercussions of erasing one’s memories.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Length: 108 minutes / 1.8 hours
One of the most emotional times of a person’s life is during a relationship. There are the highs of the original infatuation, lingering thoughts, and spontaneous romance, but there are also the lows of disagreements, fights, and (sometimes) an eventual break-up. Needless to say, a break-up is one of the most depressing events that can happen in a person’s life (right up there with losing a job). Because the ending of a relationship is such a difficult set of emotions to deal with, all the previous, enjoyable emotions and memories are spoiled by the eventual split. We tend to associate songs, places, and items to our relationships that would otherwise have no emotional link in our lives. In removing our memories of these things, we are able to completely forget the relationship, were it not for the gaping hole in our heart that is still left behind.
Lacuna, Inc. is a firm based in New York City that can remove memories from a person’s brain. The main application of Lacuna’s technology is to remove memories of relationships. After Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) had her memories erased, Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) followed suit, undergoing the procedure after he learned that she erased the memories of their time together. While in his subconscious, Joel attempts to save the good memories of the relationship, while having the bad memories fade away. Of course, Lacuna, Inc. is not above reproach in these procedures, their many employees using the technology to establish relationships with clients and erase their own infidelities. One of the employees learns about this and manages to steal these reports and disseminates them to all of Lacuna’s clients, giving them a second chance to decide their own fate.
Length: 113 minutes / 1.88 hours
Because neural science is such a delicate field of medicine, little can be done to restore or erase memories. Granted, erasing memories can be easily achieved by blunt head trauma, but restoring them is a bit trickier. Perhaps this is why the idea of erasing and restoring memories is such a good topic for science fiction. Philip K. Dick has two short stories that deal with targeted memory erasure (like in Paycheck (2003)) and targeted memory restoration (like in Total Recall (1990)). Of course, the memory restoration in Total Recall is merely an accident, as the true ability of Rekall’s equipment is to implant false memories into a person’s mind to make them think they had actually done something they never had. Restoring true memories to a person’s mind is much more difficult, mostly due to the numerous variables at play when a memory is created (like in Inception (2010)).
Unlike Lacuna, Inc., Rekall is a company that implants memories of relaxing vacations into its clients’ minds. Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is an unassuming working-man who decides to get the procedure in order to satisfy his dreams of going to Mars. When the technician encounters a problem, Rekall erases the memories of Quaid’s visit to their facility. However, upon being attacked on his way home, Quaid finds that the “secret agent” memories that were supposedly part of his Rekall vacation are still in his mind. In reality, he was a secret agent all along, but the memories of his job were erased after he was no longer needed. Now that his secret agent abilities have been reawakened, Quaid proceeds to take a trip to Mars to fulfill the dreams that had haunted him and provoked him to visit Rekall in the first place.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 missing memories