Atom Egoyan’s 2016 film “Remember” was largely panned by film critics.

For some reviewers, the movie was partly redeemed by the extraordinary performance of Christopher Plummer as Zev Guttman, an octogenarian on a journey to  seek revenge against the Nazi guard he believes was responsible for the death of his family and the family of his friend Max. But, most critics are united in seeing the film as so riddled with unbelievable plot twists, an unfocused superficial script, heavy-handed soundtrack, and apart from Plummer, lackluster acting, that even Plummer’s performance fails to redeem the film.

Guardian film critic Benjamin Lee, dismisses the script as “inept.” And argues that the film, “cheapens the disease” of dementia in which it takes “zero interest in exploring the devastation it causes but rather how it can ramp up the suspense, of which there is very little anyway.” http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/sep/17/remember-review-christopher-plummer-nazi-tiff

To be fair to Egoyan’s film, the director does not appear to have set out to make a film about dementia, which like most of the action, is just a device for Egoyan to pursue one main idea. The viewer who is unwilling to suspend disbelief to a significant degree will certainly miss the point at which Egoyan is relentlessly driving his movie.

The one idea that stands at the centre of “Remember” is, not surprisingly given the title, the contention that we must remember. We cannot afford to resort to selective amnesia to cover our tracks and live a lie. Near the end of the film, as the truth of the story begins to emerge, Guttman says to the last of his possible guilty Nazi guards, “Living a lie is not a life.”

It is often said that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. It might perhaps even more accurately be stated that those who refuse to face their past honestly and openly are doomed to live as its victims. The stories of the past must be kept alive in the present and be told as honestly as possible.

Jesus is reported to have said in John’s Gospel,

to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ (John 8:31,32)

Of course our grasp of the past is only ever partial. There is no absolutely “true” recall of even relatively recent events, much less  events that took place seventy or eighty years ago. Our narratives are always shaped by the distance we have traveled from the events we remember and the point of view we bring to our memories.  But this does not remove the responsibility of attempting to be as honest and transparent as possible about our past and the stories that have shaped our present.

To the degree that we hide and refuse to “Remember,” we remain bound by the past. We become the victims of those parts of our history we refuse to see and those stories we find too painful to share.

At the end of Egoyan’s film, the hidden secrets of history spill over into the present and inflict pain on innocent victims in the present who had no share in creating a story they never knew.

It is impossible to calculate the number of victims of untold stories and unacknowledged pain who continue to suffer in the wake of the hidden tragedies and pain that litter the landscape of every human life. We are bound by the secrets we keep. For Egoyan the stories we seek to tell honestly hold out the only hope for some measure of freedom and redemption.

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