Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

27 January 2008

Unknown White Male, dir. Rupert Murray (2005)

NIKKI says:
So, after this finished, I thought we'd watched an interesting movie about a guy, Doug Bruce, suffering a rare form of memory loss that eradicates his entire history in an instant. It was rather compelling. He had to entirely relearn everything about his life, meet his old friends, his family, and reacquaint himself with basic, everyday things like old rock bands and eating chocolate mousse. His filmmaker friend documents Doug's first year or so in his new mind and body.

The film, at first glance, is quite good. It's interesting and thought-provoking, and really does make you wonder what you would do in Doug's situation. There are pros and cons to losing one's memory, and we learn, through Doug, that perhaps the clean slate is not such a bad thing. He gets to start over. And from the images of Doug's life before losing his memory, he was nice, but a bit of a prat. Now, he's super nice, and relaxed. Doug himself says he likes the idea he can strip his friend group back to those he really wants to spend time with, and says he's not too concerned if he never gets his memory back. He's afraid of what he might remember.

So, all well and good. Who are we anyway? A product of our memories? And what if we didn't have those memories? Look at the doors that open... And then I start to read all these comments from viewers on IMDb. Normally, I hate each and every person who has every expressed an opinion over there, but some compelling arguments were arising that Doug's story was false.

A few examples: Doug says he walked into the Coney Island street in the rain, he later says another time was the first time he'd seen the rain. Why did Doug not know what cricket was, but apparently had no trouble recognising a police station to turn himself in when he first became lost? Why could he speak and write and know how to use a telephone, yet he didn't know, again what cricket was, or how to take photos? The doctors tell us procedural and episodic memory are different. So, isn't it strange to think a guy can remember certain things falling under the category of procedural memory and not others? How did he know how to use a video camera? If he knew a cricket could be an insect why didn't he know it could be a sport? HOw did he know what a dog was? How was he not afraid of cars in the street? Why can he know one thing and not another?

There are quite a few articles out there disputing the truth of this film. The cynic in me finds them rather startling. Apparently, Michel Gondry thinks it's all fake, inspired by his film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And Doug once had a friend experience severe amnesia and leave his old life for a fresh start in Bali.

Here are some statements from a Washington Post article on the film:
"I remember meeting him at a bar with some mutual friends and he started telling this bartender the whole thing," recalls Kishu Chand, a wardrobe stylist who works with photographers and film directors. "It was like he was searching for any excuse to go into it, which just seemed weird to me. I remember asking a friend of mine afterward, 'Are you buying this?' " Her doubts grew later that night, when Bruce handed over his e-mail address, which he told friends he'd registered just days after the incident:"
Hmm. And this:
But eventually, there were doubters. "At first, Doug was very believable and fascinating to be around, but at the same time, there were apparent inconsistencies," says Brown, who quit videotaping Bruce. "On one hand, he had to ask who George Bush was, but on the other, he could hold nuanced conversations about Middle Eastern politics. He would always preface such conversations with the disclaimer, 'I don't know but I've been told,' yet he had an incredible command of the facts and an extremely perceptive insight, and after a few weeks I started to have doubts about the veracity of his story."
Of course, this is all secondhand, but it certainly adds a mystery to the film. Did he lose his memory, or did he want to forget, start new? Who could blame him for wanting a chance to have another go? If he is faking, he's very convincing. I don't really know what I think, but the movie was good, and raised some interesting questions about the human mind and what makes us who we are, or supposedly are.


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