The Persistence of Forgetting is a Surrealist nightmare that relates subjective experience after divorce through voyeuristic shots and archival film clips. I interweave dark visuals representing solitude and archival film sequences to embody a mental state. In this manner, I build on Stan Brakhage’s Anticipation of the Night (1958) that uses experimental first person camerawork to replicate human consciousness.
This video explores the culture of divorce. I combine original digital video footage and archival clips to embody an evolving mental state. Viewers interpret along with the protagonist as his home movies displace actual memory. Ultimately, he has an amnesiac experience, forgetting through remembering. Archival films also reflect his shift from subconscious to conscious awareness, and represent the societal impact of the Hollywood studio system.
The Persistence of Forgetting references Salvador Dalí’s painting The Persistence of Memory in its title. The filmic equivalent of Dalí’s melted watches; this video immerses viewers in nonlinear experiential time. After the opening credits, I include a Carl Jung quotation about truth and time. Dwelling on the past and worrying about the future, my protagonist’s true struggle is with the present moment.
I divide the video into three sections that reference the Jung quotation. “Truths of the Past: Divorce is Nuclear Death” focuses on the family unit as divorce’s victim. “Truths of No Time: Remembering is Forgetting Slowly” explores the inaccuracies of memory that grow over time. “Truths of the Future: His Answer is the Siren’s Call” proposes that happiness is a seducing force, and perhaps an illusion.
Television has replaced the hearth at the center of the home, fostering modern alienation. The flames reappear in an automobile crash that symbolizes the protagonist’s divorce. An announcer dramatically accuses him of committing “a crime of passion.” However, this crime is largely in the protagonist’s mind. Rather than accept the death of his ex-wife’s former self, he keeps her alive by watching home movies while dating other women. He is lost in an electronic wilderness where audiovisual verisimilitude supplants authentic memory and affects his decisions.
The Persistence of Forgetting features clips from six archival films that reflect the protagonist’s subconscious and represent aspects of the Hollywood studio system. Thus, I link his interpersonal conflict and Hollywood’s cultural impact. Gateway to the Mind (classroom film) illustrates the impact of cultural indoctrination on the protagonist. As Hollywood (tourist film) suggests, the motion picture industry is deeply ingrained in the American way of life. The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (B-movie) highlights the emotional violence of the protagonist’s severed union. In Rear Window (film trailer), the filmmaker promises escapism into the fictional lives of others. I also use clips from two animated films. The Story of King Midas suggests that the protagonist gilds memory at his family’s expense. The Story of Little Red Riding Hood implies that his post-divorce attempts to date, while holding onto the past, are wolf-like.
Jeremy Newman has directed numerous documentary and experimental videos. His work is frequently shown at film festivals and has also aired on several PBS stations. He is Assistant Professor of Communications at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Newman earned an MFA in Media Arts from The Ohio State University.
Jeremy Newman – Galloway New Jersey