Saturday, June 26, 2010

Beginnings and Endings: Déjà vu in Remember Me

Our talented guest blogger Jessegirl is back again and this time has written a very comprehensive and interesting article on "book-ending" in Remember Me.

The film Remember Me is a complex layered knit. Elements are mirrored, or recur or bookend in such a way that the viewer is always reminded of the other side. Using this device, the filmmakers criss-cross back and forth through the story, entwining the beginning with the end constantly, pulling every thread together with the others. When we watch, we are always being drawn back, always remembering. If you see the film only once, you will be aware of only a few of these instances, but they will all be working on you. This undercurrent hitting our subconscious minds in a kind of eternal recurrence is genius.

Bookending brings us back to the beginning. It contains the whole. It creates a package, a contained unit. The film folds back on itself over and over many times with different bookended moments. It draws parallels and similarities between them.

What do I mean? Okay, here are examples, some of which are obvious and some not so much.

1) The Twin Towers are clearly visible in the subway scene at the beginning, and there they are at the end when we see Tyler standing inside one of them.

2) The death of Ally's Mom at the beginning and of Tyler at the end bookend the film. At the beginning Ally watches her mother get killed and at the end she looks up at the towers, ashes falling around her, as Tyler has been killed. Grief to begin and end.

3) Of course there's the obvious mirroring of Alley at the subway in the first scene, and her braving it at the same station in the last scene, indicating the impact Tyler made on her life.

4) The first time we see Neil and Ally together—subway, at the killing spot—he picks her up and holds her tight. Last time we see them together, right after he gets home on 9/11, they hold each other tight. Again, they are all each other have.

5) Tyler has Michael’s name tattooed over his heart. Later, Aiden has Tyler’s name tattooed on his arm. [thanks Verlinda for noticing, Brevet post]

6) Tyler finds his brother’s hung body and Ally sees her mother killed. This is back story mirroring, not visual.

7) The Hawkins family at Michael’s grave at the beginning and then at Tyler’s at the end.

8) Neil slaps Ally. Later, Ally slaps Tyler.

9) We know Michael hung himself, which is a choking death. Then Tyler allows an incensed Neil to beat him up and almost choke him to death.

10) Ally’s Mom memorizes the mugger’s face and we memorize Tyler’s face when he stands in the tower—yes, we do; beginning and end.

There are numerical coincidences too.
11) Ally was 11 yrs. when her Mom was shot and Caroline was the same age when Tyler died.

12) Michael and Tyler were both 22 when they died. (Anyone watching a second time notices that was obvious from the get-go and Tyler blowing out the candles is, of course, basic foreshadowing.)

There are, I’m sure, more of these instances of this device in Remember Me.
But for me, the most significant and meaningful ‘bookend’ was when we meet Tyler and when he leaves us.

(I developed it on the comments of the “Framing and Mirroring” post at the Unofficial Remember Me site: Quoting the post: “Some of the ladies on both Rob's and the Remember Me IMDb message boards have been discussing the film in great detail. Mils1234 compiled a detailed post of some of the observations and insights... The first time we see him—Tyler—he is framed in a window, on the outside looking in. The last time we see him, he is framed in a window, on the inside looking out. I find this to be such a perfect symbol of his journey.) Thank you, everyone on the site, for getting me started. I will analyze this amazing bookend.

Uh-oh, unlucky thirteen.
13) We meet Tyler when he is outside on the fire escape, looking inside when he hears the phone ring. We leave Tyler when he is inside the North Tower, looking out. I think this significance was built into the film deliberately. Tyler, at the beginning and throughout the film, is tortured and looking inside himself, looking in. At the end he is at peace and looking outside himself, greeting the day. (Ironically.)

And, at the beginning, when he’s looking into the apartment, from our vantage point, the apt. is black, a black frame for him, so he is looking inside the darkness within himself. And, at the end, when he’s looking outside the window, his face is illuminated, but the background and the window area is either black/dark, or striped like bars of a jail. He is paradoxically free—the illumination—and yet captured, a prisoner of fate

The most wrenching thing: We meet him; we look out his apartment to see Tyler safe outside, on the fire escape, smoking. When we last see him he is inside the tower and he is trapped, with no fire escape. From his position in the tower and our knowledge of where the plane struck, he would have been engulfed in the first firestorm, gone in an instant.

To take the ideas further:
He is physically safe outside on the fire escape at the beginning, but is in grave emotional peril, which is illustrated by him stumbling into the room, as he stumbles through life.
And the end he skips in the hall towards his father's office, insouciant, like a carefree kid, and he calmly occupies that room with every little graceful movement. He lovingly smiles at the family photos, becoming more and more tranquil.

(I love when he gently touches Janine's arm as he passes by her. She's sorry she doesn't remember Michael's birth date but Tyler knows she cares. This was a very touching moment.) He now inhabits a serene emotional place. And that's the point the camera chooses to tell us where he is.

What is the purpose of ‘bookending’? Why use the device? And why use it so much?
To show the circle of life? Well, it demonstrates the circularity of life. To show us cycles, repeating, recurring patterns.
But you’ll notice they don’t all repeat exactly. I will let you think of each instance and draw your own conclusions. But I’ll use one to show you how they change. At the very beginning, our eye follows the blurry subway as it travels. And there are Ally and her Mom on the platform, waiting. Then, at the very end of the film, we see Ally’s serene face, then the blurring as she sits on the subway [thanks, Kat].

The purpose of the bookends is more complex than just drawing us back to the beginning, over and over. The recurrences become resurrection. Because the interesting and significant thing is really this: The film ends, not with grief, not with the circle, not with repetition. It ends with the spiral towards the next level, with something new. It ends with hope and healing. Much as I, in my grief, died with Tyler when the screen went black and blank, that was not the end. Nor were the first shocks and sorrows from his loved ones which were depicted in the beginning of the final montage.

No, the end was when Zarvos’ score changes during that sequence. The music, a piano cutting in, slides seamlessly into a crescendo of triumph. You go from the bell-toll and violin sorrow which tears your insides, into a sadness which allows you to remember lovingly. The music and the montage shows us that with this everlasting grief comes everlasting change within. You are never the same after Tyler dies. Because he mattered. Because he made a difference. Because he loved, and so do you. Forgave, and so do you.
You heal. How? Well, your sadness allows you to hold and keep your loved one in your heart, yet go on to face the world. He has become a part of you and you never forget. Never. You keep his memory alive. You make him part of you. You speak his name. Speaking the name is a magical resurrection, do you see?
You tattoo it on your body. Make him yours. You write about him, to him. You tell him the secrets of your soul. Make him yours. You heal by carrying him inside you when you meet the world. But you meet it with a depth you hadn’t had before, before his death and your grief, before you knew.
And so the circles, the symbolic recurrences the filmmakers used to bookend the film, all dissolve as Ally smiles in that last close-up. He had made love to her in life. Tyler had come inside her. And he is there still, inside, smiling the same last serene smile he did on the day he died. Through her. And she’s made him hers. Forever. And that cannot be contained.


WhyIstheRumAlwaysGone said...

A beautiful, insightful article as always! It's shows so well the many layers of the film, all the narrative devices it uses and how everything is interconnected and meaningful. Thanks Kat for posting it!

17foreverlisa said...

Wow. Beautiful post. Thank you.

John said...

Kat thank you so much for this amazing article!! A lot of things were mentioned that i hadn't realise while watching the film!!!!

Heidi said...

Love these articles by jessegirl-always so insightful! :)

Sarah said...

I liked it! Great job.
By the way, did someone notice at the first greaveyard scene that Tyler is standing just in front the place his own grave will be dug?
It is such a sad and powerful foreshadowing of the end of the movie. The two brothers are like already united: Michael's tombstone and the empty place next to it that will (too) soon be filled by Tyler's one -but announced by his presence.

EverIsabella said...

Brilliant Brilliant insight :)
this movie was so much more than those retarded critics made it and thats why it was a success this movie was about grieving and healing and this captures it all. i think everytime i read one of these i understand why the movie has become such a huge deal to me. i love the movie, its a movie that i will watch for a long time so thank you for this it is AMAZING

InstantKarmaGirl said...

Ally also sees her mother within the quickly moving frames of the last scene, which is the ultimate bookend for the piece. Though knowing Tyler, she found the courage to look for the peace she'd lacked with her mother's death. In his death, she found the way back to her mother.

jessegirl said...

Thank you for all your kind comments. Nice to hear newish voices: john...foreverlisa...sarah...everisabella...
And my 'old' friends: Heidi, Rum, Karma

Rum...layers, interconnectedness...oh my yes, and more and more. That is the mark of a great piece of art.

Sarah...the graveyard and Tyler's'm beginning to think that this movie has more subtle foreshadowing than anything I've seen. Yet, even in its presence, we are, while watching, caught up in the story. Don't you think?

Karma...*Hello. Nice to hear you*...I didn't see that! Gotta watch for it.

I just got off the IMDb message board, and, while it has lots of RM supporters, it's a harsh world outside 'the bubble'. But I like my bubble, Kat. Thanks for your faith in me.

kneon said...

Thank you for a very thought provoking article.

Anonymous said...

this is a wonderful insightful piece. i will be watching this film again with new eyes. thank you.

Anonymous said...

I have NEVER cried at the end of a movie before, but I cried like a baby at the end of Remember Me. I just could not get over the tragedy of it. Caroline losing the only brother she's really known, Charles losing his son when they were just beginning to get some of the closeness back, Diane losing her son when she had already lost one. Ally losing the love of her life, Aiden losing his best friend and roommate. But, at least Tyler died knowing that his father really and truly did love him and Caroline. Now, I have to list off the good that came out of such a horrendous event: Charles and Caroline finally forge a bond, Ally finally takes the subway- a huge step in itself, since she lost her mother at a subway station, Aiden finally starts to take his studies seriously. This event shaped their lives and it forever changed them. It would be something that you would never get over or even.... accept. I cried, I seriously did cry. I mean it, as soon as "I Know You Can Hear Me" started playing, I just could not stop the tears. That mournful music along with all the different reactions from Tyler's loved ones, was overwhelming. The most heartbreaking reaction to me, was Caroline, Ally and Aiden actually tied with Caroline, and the dad's face when he got out of the taxi-looking back on it right this second, it was like he knew. He knew that his son was dead. Even though a lot of people above Tyler survived, his dad just... knew you could tell. That subtle sigh and his face... Caroline, when she came out of school and looked around for him and realized he wasn't there.... Aiden and Ally going up onto the roof and obviously seeing the destruction and fire... all these different reactions, so heartbreaking in their own way. I have "I Know You Can Hear Me" on a CD and I just picture the whole scene in my head. Something else that was moving, was Tyler's voice over during the music. That was brilliant as far as I'm concerned. The whole Ghandi quote was so true and it really resonates with me, and then Tyler talking to Michael directly: "Micheal, Caroline, asked me, what I would say if I knew you could hear me. I said I do know, I love you, God I miss you, but I forgive you"

That whole quote: "Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it's very important that you do it, because nobody else will. Like when someone comes into your life, and half you says you're nowhere near ready, but the other half says, make her yours forever. Michael, Caroline, asked me, what I would say if I knew you could hear me, I said I do know: I love you, God I miss you, and I forgive you." And then, all of them moving foreword as hard as it was. Charles finally stepping up and forging that bond with Caroline-going to her art show, holding her hand. My mom reminded me that it took Princess Diana dying for Prince Charles to step up and be a good father. Just like it took... Tyler dying for Charles to step up and be a good father. Ally finally overcame her fear of riding the subway, Aiden finally becoming more studious and having Tyler's name tattooed on his arm. And then all of them standing around Tyler's grave around a year later, because of Caroline's long hair. This film was remarkable and very emotionally charged.

Post a Comment