The conversation started about memory and what film does well and what it doesn't do well. According to Ishiguro, memory is one thing that film, so far, hasn't managed to crack in a satisfying way. True, characters have flashbacks or memory is used as a plot device (they talked about Hitchcock's Marnie and the final reveal where the entire motivation and secret's she's harboured is exposed with an image), but the act of recreating a memory is one that is difficult, if not impossible, to weave in with the present narrative. If we jump back in time, it becomes a realistic portrait, it's part of the movie, it's no longer really a memory in a certain way.
To me what makes this interesting is the question of trauma. How does the memory of trauma operate in fiction vs. cinema? After all, trauma is a flash, an image, not necessarily an entirely constructed narrative. And in cinema, trauma can operate on a more "real" level in a certain way: it has the emotional punch that trauma can have in real life (or some approximate emotional punch). Think Taxi Driver and all the stark shocking images. Or Twelve Monkeys and its frenetic moments of emotion.
After memory, the conversation drifted to what cinema can do well vs. fiction: and according to Ishiguro, one thing that cinema does well is action. He claims, aptly, that we tend to dismiss action in film because we think it's simple and that it lacks complexity (we, being, deep thinkers, I guess). But that action actually can be quite complex and done for a variety of reasons. He cited the Bourne Movies (I, too, am a huge fan of these films) and how the action operates on a defensive level from beginning to end. This as opposed to other movies where the action is offensive. According to Ishiguro, this distinction is key to how we as the audience react to and identify with the characters.
All of this is very interesting for me since I am just as interested in movies as I am in books. And,
|A++ defensive action: why we love Bourne|
This is a particularly positive way to end a talk about movies in the midst of an important literary festival. Obviously I think a lot about books and the role that books play in public life. It's easy to get pessimistic. It's easy to feel that books are more and more relegated to the margins. Books and literature are niche occupations, no question. When I'm out in the world and talking to people who aren't necessarily readers or thinkers, I'm often shocked at how little they know about contemporary writers. Even huge stars that every reader must know, in the world of non-books, they mean little to nothing. And I forget that this is the majority of the world, of the US, of Canada. Most people don't read.
|Tippi Hedren as Marnie: bad at memory|
I've said it before and I'll say it again: everyone should read. It makes smarter people even smarter. It makes not so smart people more interesting. It helps us see worlds and ideas in a way no other art form can. We can empathize, sympathize, imagine other ways of living, thinking about new ideas. Without exception: every single person who reads regularly that I know is more interesting because of it.
So turn off the Internet and go read a book. Without the phone at the fingertips.