Memory movies

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Forgetting has served dramatic and comical purposes from cinema’s earliest days, but it was mainly in the 1980s that movies began connecting memory explicitly to the brain and to various neurotechnologies.A central feature of those films is that although they often involve amnesia, the condition makes sense only in the light of protagonists’ personal histories, experiences, and existential quests.


Given the role attributed to memory in the making of personal identity, the importance of amnesia as a dramatic motif comes as no surprise. Yet it seems that “most amnesic conditions in films bear little relation to reality” (Baxendale 2004). For example, although anterograde amnesia (the inability to recall events that take place after the onset of the disease) is more common and incapacitating than retrograde amnesia (the inability to recall events that preceded the onset of the disease), cinema has overwhelmingly focused on the loss of memories of the past.

Vidal, Fernando and Ortega, Francisco. Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject (Forms of Living)....

Poster for Total Recall (1990), one of the movies identified by Vidal and Ortega as memory movies.
Here's a quick video on memory and amnesia:
How We Make Memories - Crash Course Psychology #13


For most of the movies that have explored memory, identity, and the brain since the 1980s, humans are essentially defined by the relationship of their present to their remembered past: totally forgetting our past would turn us into different persons.


Vidal, Fernando and Ortega, Francisco. Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject (Forms of Living)....

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Published in 11/03/2019

Updated in 19/02/2021

All events in the topic Chap. 4: Brains on Screen:


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