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Memory erasure in Dollhouse

by Critical Commons Manager

In the cinematic imaginary, the way to erase or replace memories used to be via psychological and biological strategies such as hypnosis, drugs or electroshock therapy. In the digital age, however, this is more frequently accomplished via a range of ready technological solutions, seemingly inspired by cognitive neuroscience, including machines such as functional MRI, which provide real-time access to visualizations of neural activities in the brain. When and how did this transformation take place? Is it simply a convenience of feature film and television script writing to be able to have characters with replaceable or malleable memories?

The Subjective Shot in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

by Jesse Kapp

In his discussion of the origins of the first-person shooter, Galloway spends a lot of time discussing the subjective shot and its differences from the more common POV shot. While the distinctions are arguably somewhat tenuous, with perhaps a certain amount of overlap or even confusion based on a filmmaker’s intention, it is interesting to study the quick shots in this clip from Joel’s point of view as subjective, and not simply POV, shots. First, Joel focuses on the Boston snow globe. The brief shot does admittedly follow the shot/reverse-shot sequence of the classic POV, and the fact that the shot is somewhat shaky could still lend itself to the conclusion that we are only following Joel’s eyeline, and not his psysiological sight. However, the brief blurriness of the shot suggests a lack of focus on Joel’s part. This lack of focus is interesting because it is the factor that pushes the shot into the realm of the subjective shot. As Joel fixes his gaze on the snow globe, he is very quickly trying to reminisce about the memories that he associates with it. The blurriness is the haze of the memory, the fogginess of trying to reconstruct the past in the present.


The clip continues to play with subjective shots, adding a second layer that is highly unusual. We cut to Joel and the technician’s in his apartment continuing the memory erasing process, and in his mind Joel is back in the clinic, watching himself earlier in the day, undergoing the object-memory process. The Joel of the past, sitting in the chair, is given another subjective shot as the mug featuring Clementine’s picture is placed on the table. The fact that another subjective shot is shown here is particularly interesting as it is assigned to the least credible of the three Joel’s in the sequence. Joel’s real body is of course in his apartment. The second Joel interacts with the doctor, reveling in the deja-vu of the memory. The Joel in the chair is already just a player in the memory. The subjective shot here doesn’t carry the same weight as the first. The assumption is that the same moment of trying to remember the mug occurred earlier before the cut to Joel’s apartment, but its placement here calls attention to Joel’s three concurrent layers and the narrative credibility of each in the specific moment.

Selectively erase memory

by ying-hsin chou

The way we view our dreams and memories is jumping from clips to clips. The relationship between two clips can be overlaid, connected, disconnected. This makes our memory flexible to review. This flexibility is also what we used to develop game experience.

Even though to control or manipulate dream and memory is beyond our ability, we can use some object to be the bridge to connect between our conscious and subconscious. When Jim Kerry tried to erase his memory, he uses some meaningful objects to lead him. But once he started his memory journey, he became struggled. This is the conflict between our conscious and subconscious. The influence of our deep memory can sometimes be greater than we presumed. 

Being a third person to view ourselves and wander in our own memory, we can explore how does our subconscious function in our dream or memory. Meanwhile, when everything (conscious, subconscious, memory) exposed right in front of our face, it is challenging to perceive. 

What will it affect us when losing important memories? If we can selectively erase our memory, we might be able to preserve and read our memory selectively just like using computer, pressing buttons “save” or “delete”. In this way, the meaning of our memory will be entirely different. No matter good or bad memory, their existence is what creates who we are. Even though there are some ethical considerations, the idea of erasing memories is not necessarily impossible. In order to help those who have traumatic memories, there are some experiments and theories focusing on the study of erasing memory. 

Here is a link about a research regarding erasing traumatic memory.  


Montage sequences for diagnosis

by Critical Commons Manager

The trope of viewing a cinematic montage as a diagnostic or therapeutic tool appears in numerous films including such disparate works as The Parallax View (1974), A Clockwork Orange (1971) and The Game (1997). In all cases, the viewing subjects are connected to biofeedback or neurofeedback mechanisms that record physiological or neurological responses. A parallel, non-cinematic procedure is followed in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), where functional MRI imaging is used to map the location of memories in the brain in order to later eradicate the memories themselves in order to get over a failed relationship.

Embedded In Our Memory

by Kristina Thomas

When you play a game, you always a respond to certain objects inside the game.  We start to remember something from the past, that ignites some type of emotion.  In this scene, Jim Carrey sees a snow globe, he remembers a great memory behind it, but is forced to react with emotion and not words.  Games do help us react with emotions, but we react with words also.  For example, we play games where much of the reactions to someone trying to kill you, is most likely  shock and anger, but also words expressing how we feel.  Although in the film, Jim Carrey is not playing a game, he plays along with a system that tries to help erase memories of him and his ex-girlfriend.

Reluctantly, we get involved in the journey of Jim Carrey erasing memories.  He plays along with the different memories with his ex, and the visit to the doctor's office.  Still, there is a switch that goes off in your brain, igniting an internal flame to something negative, positive or in between.  We are the one's that hold the joystick in our hand guiding us along a journey to somewhere, and someplace.  In all honesty, we lead ourselves down the wrong/right path, or make decisions we think are correct; yet the game has other plans of their own.  Alexander Galloway writes "active audience theory claims that audiences always bring their own interpretations and receptions of the work…that an active medium is one whose very materiality moves and restructures itself" (3).  As people, we think we are making the decisions, changing things around, when ultimately games, or memories in this case, already have made the decisions for us.  You can't change what has already been embedded in the mind, and certainly in the game.

Eternal Sunshine memory erasure

Jim Carrey undergoes a procedure for erasing Kate Winslet from his memory in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind

from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Creator: Michel Gondry
Posted by Critical Commons Manager