In 1991, German auteur Wim Wenders released a film titled Until the End of the World. Initially available in a truncated 2 hour and 40 minute version, there’s since been a five hour “director’s cut” helmed by Wenders (and both versions are masterpieces in their own way). A magnum opus of brilliant ideas and zany visuals, the film details a man (William Hurt) and woman (Solveig Donmartin) both on the run in the near distant future (1999 at the time) for various reasons who team up to help each other solve their respective problems. In keeping with Wenders’ innate focus on the road movie as paradoxical epic, Until the End of the World eventually settles on more intimate matters as Hurt comes back into contact with his mother and father (played wonderfully by Jeanne Moreau and Max von Sydow) in the Australian outback.
As the reclusive but devout Dr. Faber, von Sydow is desperately trying to hone a device that can successfully record memories and, perhaps, give some type of eyesight back to his elder wife. This idea of recording memories and utilizing them as a saving grace for the wreckage of mankind’s hopeless ways hadn’t quite been seen before and the way Wenders builds this into the expansive fabric of his momentous film is nothing short of breathtaking.
It may seem like I’ve gotten way off base here. This review is not about Wim Wenders’ film (although it kind of is) but the slice of science fiction genre it unwittingly gave birth to. I’ll also never give up an opportunity to mention a film that ranks within my top ten favorites of all time.
Since then, numerous films have tried to mimic the idea. This year alone has already seen one effort, Charlie McDowell’s The Discovery, which is a very good film in its own right- and features one crushing final image. Now along comes Rememory, directed and co-written by Mark Palansky, that takes as its central conceit a murder mystery around the death of a scientific genius (Martin Donovan) about to launch a unit that attaches to one’s head and records, saves and plays back a smattering of crystal clear memories.
The sleuth in this mystery is played by the terrific Peter Dinklage, a (seemingly) innocent acquaintance of Donovan’s doctor who wants to unravel the whole story. Showing so much in his facial expressions and reaction shots, Dinklage is the emotional focus of the film. Even when the whole affair is threatened to fall apart via plot holes and head-scratching moments of “how?,” it’s held together by his resolve.
Coming into contact with Dinklage are a variety of people surrounding the doctor’s experiments. There’s an unstable young man (Anton Yelchin in one of his final screen roles) who was last seen running from the doctor’s office. An attractive patient (Evelyn Brochu) seems to be hiding more than she’s revealing. The other emotional counterpart in the film is found in the role of the doctor’s wife embodied by venerable screen actress Julia Ormond. Like Dinklage, there’s a certain mystery surrounding her relationship and how everything fits together. It’s a role that could be pedestrian, yet Ormond handles it with deep empathy.
Initially focusing on the out-there impacts of how memories shape and direct our lives, Rememory eventually settles itself as a moody neo-noir with shades of sci-fi thrown in for good measure. There’s a bit of a femme fatale. Dinklage’s private eye is thrust into a world of shadowy financiers and unhinged suspects, but it’s why and how he initially gets involved that holds the greatest surprise in the film. And it’s a film that understands the biggest impact is not in solving the crime (although it does) but how these disparate souls are eventually connected, both in the ether and on this mortal plane.
If there’s one overriding theme in all these films, it’s that our subconscious allows us to forget things for a reason. It’s not always healthy, cathartic or reasonable to project our dreams and thoughts like a 4K Ultra HD movie. Perhaps the most healthy thing to do is enjoy and cherish the moments when they happen before our own eyes. Rememory certainly makes a good case for that.
Rememory opens in the Dallas/Fort Worth area on Friday, September 8 at the AMC Dine-In Mesquite 30.