Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hints and Clues to the Ending of Remember Me

Jessegirl has written another wonderful article which details various elements of foreshadowing in Remember Me. She explores both the who and the what starting with the title and official poster.

by Jessegirl

So many people, critics and audience members, didn’t see the end of “Remember Me” coming. Since the film has opened, and even now for the DVD release, people feel blindsided, as if the end came out of nowhere. But I will show you that it was always a foregone conclusion and that the filmmakers gave us all quite a few hints or clues to guide us.

I was also shocked when I first saw it but I believe that it is what was meant and how Remember Me is best experienced. I have written about this in a previous piece [“The Ending of Remember Me: The Great Divide”] Here I would like to concentrate on all those clues. Read on if you’ve seen the film and are curious. I invite you to comment. You might have thought of other clues which you could share, or perhaps want to dispute mine. Fine.

You might need to watch the movie again to refresh your memory for this little game. If you haven’t seen Remember Me yet, you might want to stop here because it is best experienced ‘spoiler-free’

Hints about the ending of this film are peppered throughout; they appear as symbols, voiceovers, numbers, in speeches, a movie, in the music, the art, in reflections, shadows, in timing. But there are two points of the ending. One is September 11th. The other is who will die.

By the time we first see Tyler we already have enough information to suspect the attacks on the World Trade Center are, somehow, part of the story. In the very first scene, Ally and her mother in the subway, the Twin Towers are visible clearly and the words “Brooklyn, New York, 1991” appear on the screen. At the beginning of the next scene, inside Tyler’s apartment, the words are: “Ten Years Later”. The setting: New York City, 2001. A bell should go off in your head. Yet so many of us forgot that bell until it sounds in the film, the requiem bell tolling for the dead. By then, everything has happened.

Maybe, while watching, we have noticed other clues. Maybe not, because most of them are subtle and do not intrude or detract from the story as it unfolds. But they are there. I’ll enumerate them here, in as precise chronological order as I can. (Many I found myself. But a group of people on an IMDb message board, early on, compiled their own list and rounded out my discoveries. I acknowledge their perceptions, and will name them at the end of the article.) There might be more clues I’m not aware of, but this list should be more than enough to convince viewers of the ‘trail of breadcrumbs’.

*The Poster: The ash-coloured background, with a partial, wounded-looking view of the skyline of the city. Is something missing?

*The Title: If nothing else, ‘Remember Me’ is a call to memorialize, and someone is asking to be remembered. We don’t know who, but clearly melancholy would not come as a surprise.

*The Twin Towers—NYC, 1991—and then the apartment, 10 years later.

*The Gandhi quote, Tyler’s voice-over: “Whatever you do in life...etc.” Actually, all the Gandhi quotes speak to legacy, to what you leave behind after you die. And Tyler always says them.

*The stone angel on Tyler’s shoulder at Michael’s grave: It is actually reaching out to him. Tyler and his father are both in deep shadow, backlit. This is a momentary thing, fleeting, maybe only a frame or two, but definitely foreshadowing, and specifically attached to Tyler.

Zooming out, the stone angel is clearly behind Tyler, on his right. Yes, it’s a cemetery, where such statues are common, but its placement by Tyler is deliberate. A commenter has even said that Tyler is standing close to where his grave will be.

*Tyler and Ally’s Global Politics class: “in the light of recent terrorist attacks, etc.” This is the only ‘clue’ which seems more like a red herring to me. Because it’s confusing. Did such discussions take place in classes prior to 9/11? Also, it seems an attempt to lead us astray, to fool us into thinking the Sept. 11th attacks had already happened and it was the fall term at college.

*Tyler’s voice-over about Buddy Holly being dead by 22: “Michael, you know what day I’m staring at...” The 22nd year is symbolic, but it’s also Michael’s age when he died.

*The ‘threshing’ accident’: Tyler picks Caroline up from school, his face all battered and bruised. She asks him about it and he jokingly talks about a ‘horrible accident, a horrible, horrible accident’. The point is just Tyler’s proximity to horrible ‘accidents’.

*Ally’s dessert-first, fear of asteroids speech: She’s thinking about the fragility of life and how it can all be taken away in an instant, like her mother. But it is a lengthy scene and means we must remember this thought because it is significant.

*Amnesty International posters at Tyler’s place: Yes, it’s student decor, but two posters, the Picasso and the orange corona, are laden with symbolism, not just background wall decoration. They juxtapose Tyler with peace and freedom and later he will die during an act of war and oppression. [See my article: Bars and Birds - Prison and Freedom in Remember Me ]

*School’s out: Tyler meets Caroline after school saying something about school being out for the summer. Now we know, without a doubt, it is NYC 2001, before the attacks. Also, they talk about “Mom and Les getting the beach house for the summer?” This is halfway into the film and everybody should know when it is, how the timeline is closing in on 9/11. It is a clear confirmation and reminder.

*Tyler blowing out his 22nd birthday candles: This is definitely foreshadowing about Tyler’s death. Twenty-two years, like his brother. The way the scene is shot, the lighting, his expression, is so ominous. Tyler looking sad before he executes the final blow and the candles are out and Tyler is black, in darkest shadow.

*The black and white Kline-esque painting behind Tyler during the boardroom scene: This painting was created for the film. (On this blog, April 10, 2010, there was an insightful article about the art and what it means.) The point was made that this art reminds of the Twin Towers after they fell, sort of like the mangled, chaotic destruction of ground zero, and, more importantly, that it is Tyler who is always linked with the painting. Forbidding foreshadowing, like “writing on the wall”. Check out the article.[ Looking at Remember Me Artwork]

*Neil gets his dinner and we hear Bush’s speech about stem cell research: This was August, 2001, so the timeline is nudged a little closer. Another reminder.

*Overhear news Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France for the 3rd time: If you know about this, he won in 1999, 2000 and 2001.

*The Hirshs, Tyler, Ally and Aiden, go to the beach on Labour Day: Another reminder that we are closing in on 9/11.

*Tyler and Aiden go to see American Pie 2: This was showing at that time.

*Tyler brings Caroline into her classroom after the haircutting incident: The partially-written date on the chalkboard is “Thursday, Sept”. Closer.

*Tyler throws the fire extinguisher out the window: I’ll get back to this.

From here on, everything takes place on September 11th. In this order-

*Ominous music: Actually, the tone of the music has had ominous bits before this, but, in the “Morning Montage”, Marcelo Zarvos’ incredible score undercuts Tyler’s happiness with ominous overtones, specifically three notes which repeat again and again, while Tyler goes closer and closer to his death.

*Tyler makes a bird shadow on Ally’s back: This looks like a plane as well—the portent of the kind of ‘bird’ encounter that day; it is an actual shadow. Tyler will be ‘flying away’ soon.

*Charles picks up Caroline, who will be 20 minutes late: This was my first ‘ah hah’ moment. It was a departure from his normal habit, and, although we know he’s trying to get closer to her, in this context it sounded that bell in my head.

*Tyler phones his Dad en route to the office and the Noguchi red cube is behind him as he says he’s almost there: This pinpoints Tyler’s location pretty precisely as that famous artwork is a stone’s throw away from the World Trade Center.

*A few frames later, Tyler, still on the phone, says he can see the building. The Twin Towers are reflected/mirrored in the building behind Tyler.

*Tyler is in the elevator, smiling, and the floors are displayed as they move up,87, 88, 89. We know the building is in must have at least that many floors. How many buildings are that high? If we don’t know his ultimate destination now...

*Tyler in his Dad’s office, walking in front of the ‘Kline’ painting again, then sitting at his Dad’s computer and looking at the photos on the screensaver: Tyler’s reflection is visible on Michael’s chest, superimposed, a clue that he will be joining him soon.

*Janine and Tyler discuss the date of Michael’s death: I think the idea was to link Michael with Tyler, the dead with the doomed. Because we know the date and we don’t need yet another reminder of the year.

*Tyler seen at the window, from behind, the shape of the windows, the height of the building clear: By now we know where he is, can infer it pretty much exactly, and we should know approximately when it is, so the following should be just confirmation.

*Caroline at school, pans to the date on the chalkboard: This is when most of us gasp, finally understanding where this all led.

*Tyler by the window: Most of us can’t get this shot out of our heads. It is the heartbreaker. He stands there, serene, and the camera zooms out. Our last lingering glimpse of him is arm-gripping, as the reality slowly seeps into our consciousness.

The camera keeps zooming further and further. We can see where he is standing; it is the point of impact, instant death.

Now some of these clues are NYC specific. That is, unless you know the city, they will mean nothing to you. Noguchi’s red cube is one. Then, unless you really remember dates for social/cultural things, you won’t remember the date/year of Bush’s speech or Lance Armstrong’s win, or when American Pie 2 was playing. It is the combination of them which twigs. And it’s the weird way their meaning becomes clear when put together: the ‘horrible accident’, 22 as a symbolic number, symbolizing the two towers, the two brothers and their age, and so on.

Some of the ‘clues’ are actually foreshadowing, which, like the music, give you an ominous feeling, something you can’t pinpoint. They are not another piece of evidence with which to solve a mystery. It is feeling the filmmakers are going for. After all, this is not a mystery; it is a tragedy. It has not been designed to give you an ‘Aha’ moment, but an ‘Oh, no!’ moment.

I’m not trying to convince you that most of us, intelligent though we are, weren’t blindsided. We were blindsided, and we were meant to be. So what? Death pervaded the film and we were meant to deal with it, to face it. More importantly, the point was to get really involved with the characters, to get to know and love them, and then to feel with them, the largest losses.

I’ve seen the film a number of times and there are many for whom viewing it more than once seems to be necessary. From that perspective, I’ve been able to pick out these ‘clues’. But the first time I saw it, I noticed only few of them. Why? Not for lack of intelligence, but because the clues were never meant to intrude on the story. Pinpointing the date and place before the story was played out would have sidetracked us and would not have served the story.

And the actors did a fine job of distracting us from that first knowledge, the ‘ten years later’ part, as we took the journey with them. I can’t say enough about the superlative acting on the part of everyone, from the principals to the extras. These people became so real to us, we forgot about New York in 2001.

Finally, I want to talk about Fate and Tyler.

The Noguchi red cube was chosen not only because it is a landmark very close to the Twin Towers. As the artist said of it, it was like the roll of the dice, or chance. It was by chance that Tyler was there, at that spot, that day. Some could say he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was not his habit; he was meeting his father to talk to the lawyers about the incident at Caroline’s school. And it had not been Charles’ habit to pick up Caroline either. Both men were going against their usual habits.

Some one asked, reasonably, why Tyler didn’t go into the cafĂ© to write in his journal while waiting for his Dad. It was close by. I said that he didn’t need to tell Michael anything anymore, that it was all there, in the voice-over, done. Or you might think it was fated. What must be, must be.

I’ve talked about the symbolism in meeting and leaving Tyler before [Beginnings and Endings Deja vu in Remember Me] but I’ll re-cap a bit here. When we meet Tyler he is outside on the fire escape, smoking, safe. When we leave him he is inside the North Tower, trapped when the firestorm hit. It is a death trap and there is no escape. The act for which he was put in jail the last time and the reason why he had to go to his father’s office that fateful day, was for throwing the fire extinguisher out the window in his anger at the bullies. I think this is symbolic. He could have thrown something else. A chair, book, something. But it was a fire extinguisher. Is this symbol or code to let us know that he’s thrown away his chance to escape Fate? That he has sealed his Fate? That, by throwing away the type of instrument which saves from fire, he threw away his chance to be free of Fate?

It is a Greek concept, Fate, and applies to tragedies. The three Fates, Clotho, who spins the thread of life, Lachesis, who measures the length of life, and Atropos—which means ‘may not be turned’—who cuts the thread, are inescapable. Atropos cut Tyler’s life thread. For him, for his family, for us, it was an unfinished life. But it was always preordained, by the writer. And although we have difficulty with it, his death was always there, like the stone angel on his shoulder, waiting to claim him. Our job is to come to terms with it, to learn from it, to hold onto Tyler tight at the same time we let him go. So that he can become an angel in our midst.



Here follows a list of those from the IMDb message board—a Remember Me thread, around March 13—who compiled a list for the foreshadowing topic: erinm118, booth-is-my-angel, kitkattz, nautiluswirl, tracygee, playnin3, DeadAngelicHeart, MarkStrongsMinion, sonicelsa, baby_blue sunflowers, roxy_mango, brooke_Delong, Tedracat, rjkmedia, laurynsmith, Hayden41, smeades, Couper1963, Februarydreams, Calendos.

And for the post on the Art of RM: milsy1234, AZ, VAgirl, Tedracat, Calendos, Nautiluswirl.

Thank you all.


InstantKarmaGirl said...

This is so right, jessegirl. As soon as it said 1991 and then ten years later, there was this empty feeling in my chest. I didn't acknowledge it because no one makes movies about 9/11, at least non-over-the-top movies about the loss.

With everything I am, I am grateful that this movie was made and I can never fully express what it'd done to me. It opened that door I'd closed so tightly. So many people have already begun to forget and I never want to be one of those people again.

Thank you for your continued care with your articles. They are appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I do not know How people can say they didn't see the ending coming. Those same people are suposed to be the so called professional film critics. Give me a break. I figured it out from the dates so I was not as "shocked" as those people claimed.

Weakness of the film for me I didn't understand how they (Ally and Tyler) got reunited. that was disjointed. One minute she's at his house for his sister trauma sitting on the steps, then they're walking in a park, then she's lying in his bed while he's sitting by a window, then he's telling her he's going to his father's office and that was it. I was like Ok. There's no cohesion. I don't know if it was intentional or not, but there's a lack of emotional connection between Tyler and Ally. For ex. the way they confessed their love for each other was blaze.(Maybe the director wanted to convey that they're together only because of their mutual loss and grief)However I still like the film.

kat said...

There are just so many clues and road signs in this film. But most of them are all so subtle. I think they may have meant for them to go into our subconscious so on one hand we do not see the ending, but on the other hand our minds are prepared for it.

I remember going to see it on the first Saturday it was released. I had seen it before and had noticed some of the clues. Still reeling from the critics reviews, I determined I was going to look for all the clues.

The one clue that really blew me away was the reflection of the WTC in the window by the red dice sculpture. I saw that and was amazed the way it was included.

imloco2 said...

I think most movies have a certain way to tell you when something or someone is important to the story. The music shifts, the camera zooms in and we, the audience, know we're supposed to pay attention to whatever it is. Not with RM however. They throw out clues left and right, but it's done in such a subtle way we don't notice it. Important stuff is just a backdrop in their lives, the way real lives are lived. Most times we don't know what's important until after the fact. Just like Remember Me. I don't want to say you have to be intelligent to 'get' this film. I do think you have to be willing to think about it.

LoCullen said...

Amazing article really, I love this movie in its whole context, it tell us one single story of a life that was lost on the 9/11 attack. I could see all those clues before the end reach me and I've seen it only 2 times, cuz the pain in the end, even for me that i'm not an American citizen, is really overwhelming, I must say even now that I've just read this article it remember that made my eyes feel wet; thanks for the article, i guess i'll watch Remember me again =D Z

WhyIstheRumAlwaysGone said...

Amazing article jessegirl, and wow there are still things I had not noticed! The stone angle, for example : I had seen it, but i had not seen it was pointing at Tyler. I was also si caught up in eth playful interaction between caroline and Tyler that I never thought of seeing the "horrible, horrible accident" as a possible clue. Good God,, now I'm never going to be able to see that scen without feeling sad. I was blindsided as many people were although I knwe the ending because it had been spoilt for me by someone on a thread. But still, I got so captivated by the charcaters and teh story taht I never thought things would turn out like they did. I did not pay attention to the dates, tehre's some cleus i never got at all (the Bush speech, lance Armstrong etc).
I love your approach about fate, tragedy and Tyler's fate being preordained. Food for thought.
Thanks for your insight and the incredible way you've colelcted all the clues and presented them so clearly. I hope lots of people will read this!

Anonymous said...

"Did such discussions take place in classes prior to 9/11? Also, it seems an attempt to lead us astray, to fool us into thinking the Sept. 11th attacks had already happened and it was the fall term at college"

I assumed they were discussing the WTC bombings from 1993. In a global politics/ poli-sci class the issue would still be relevantly current, especially in the city where the incident took place.

solas said...

Again, well done, Jessegirl! As for picking up hints: I was a math major for a while, and have a logical mathematical brain, so my mind automatically calculates things; I saw the year and then 10 yrs later, and so had a hint already running through at least the subconscious. As for the discussion in class: There were several terrorist attacks already and they were discussed in poli-sci classes at this time period, especially since Bin Laden had made threats toward America on its own soil. Those of us who were involved (or had loved ones involved) in world work, politics, helping victims of terror in other countries, were heavily invested in these discussions.

jessegirl said...

Anonymous and Solas...thank you for the information about previous attacks and threats by Bin Laden towards America.

jessegirl said...

Anonymous (Sept.21)...I, too,like you, felt the film, not just the section you refer to, was somewhat disjointed the first time I saw it. And yet the impact was not minimized at all, and the 'feel' was right. When I saw it another time, I couldn't see anything disjointed anymore. It's weird. And the moments you talk about with Ally and Tyler, after the hair-cutting incident, their connection seemed strong, despite the hurdle of seeking and granting forgiveness. There was a 'feel' to it, a rightness and their relationship at the end just seemed like the conclusion. I would have liked a bit more between the walk in the park and being in bed, but at that point I could see, in retrospect, pacing was at a critical point. "The Morning Montage" piece of the score began with Tyler following Ally (beige shirt) into the park. That piece of music is the beginning of the end and the pace had to pick up right there, to come to the gut-punch climax. It's almost as if we, the audience, can feel that they've reconciled, that the porch scene made it obvious this is where they were headed. So, now that we can rest easy that Ally and Tyler are together, we will be shown that time has run out. And that's that.
I found it fascinating that I found some disjointedness on first viewing, and then, after that, it seemed seamless.

Thanks Karma--xo--...
Kat, I know that you saw more than I did sooner.
Imloco2...I think you just have to be open. Right?
LoCullen....Thanks for the supportive words. Comment here again anytime.
Rum...The horrible accident...I put that together with the castrating of the father from the Greek myth, because they talk about a scythe used for threshing.

Everyone, it was a fun post.

Anonymous said...

I genuinely didn't guess the ending at all. I was told by a friend that there was a big twist at the end, so I was inwardly trying to figure the twist throughout the movie, but I was so focused on the characters and their backgrounds that I didn't even take the dates into account when considering what it might be. On the second time watching it, it is like watching a completely different movie; you notice so much more and the little things become significant.

One thing which almost made me cry second time round was when Tyler is leaving to go to his dad's office and Ally asks "French toast or orange juice?" and Tyler simply replies "It doesn't matter", with a slight smile. It's little things like that which gather so much more meaning in the context of the ending.

Anonymous said...

wow, how much work you put into this, impressive analysis!
What I noticed is the difference between American and rest-of-the world viewers. Outside America, we don`t wince when we think of the year 2001 and we don`t connect every image of NY with where it is relative to where the towers used to be. Of course we remember the date as a tragic one, but it is not at the center of our mindframe. Until I watched this, I wasn`t aware Americans do.
Given this different vantage point, I absolutely loved the movie. Because I didn`t get any of the clues while watching, and because it made me feel closer to feeling the 9/11 tragedy.

Anonymous said...

Great post. The only thing missed was in the sound editing, numerous times when they were outside you could here a plane flying overhead.

Again great post thanks for filling in the few bits I missed. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

I also felt the need to watch again, I knew there were hints there... I just needed to piece it all together. The number 22 is definitely symbolic. Ally's dad had been a police officer for 22 years... maybe that is a clue as well?
The first shot of Tyler in his dads office was also a hint. The composition of the shots taken really drew your eye to the iconic windows. Another are the sculptures behind Charles' desk... two stone tower looking structures, which look remarkably like the awful pictures so many witnesses on that terrible day. I think that the characters used, Tyler and Michael are also symbols of wtc themselves. Two brothers who stood together, both of whom met a tragic fate.

Anonymous said...

I read somewhere that Tyler's dad was one of those who planned the 9/11 attack. It showed as as everyone was there panicking about the twin towers, he went out of his car with a smirk, or a smile that shows he is satisfied. do you think he really is a part of it?

kat said...

I don't think that it was a smirk or a smile ~ and why would anyone think he would have been a part of that? If you watch the scene with him looking up, his hand slides down the door and to me it looks like he knows that he has just lost his second son and is trying to hold it together and not collapse.

Anonymous said...

I noticed a few of them, the twin towers at the start, the date of when the mother and brother died, bush speech. Watched the movie loads and I'll need to watch it again because I can't believe there was so many I missed, I do have one question. Tyler, Ally and Aiden on the train, when leo appears did anyone hear the voice over of a woman saying "Leo off duty cop". I know that's nothing to do with this topic but why did they do that. I'm sure I have heard other non cast members speaking in other films, has anyone else???

jessegirl said...

As far as I know, the line about Leo was so that the audience might remember Leo (some people mistook him in the train for one of the assailants in the first scene). And he has a small enough role that many viewers might not remember him.
Leo is Neil's partner and because he noticed Tyler and Ally on the train he tipped off Neil and that's how Neil went to Tyler's apt. and found the incriminating diary entries about his daughter. That was Leo's role in the train scene.

Anonymous said...

Anyone out there because this has been BUGGING the S*** out of me ever since I saw this great film--what painting is shown at the very end and up in Tyler and Aidan's apartment?

jessegirl said...

The black and white portrait is by Georges Seurat (of his friend Edmund Aman-Jean). It hangs in the Met.
Here is the link to an analysis of its use in the film (although Coulter said that they had not chosen the portrait for an particular reason).
Just remove the spaces: http://regardssurlefilmrememberme.blogspot. ca/search/label/Seurat%20portrait

Unknown said...

I am very late to the party! This was on point!

Anonymous said...

I also believe that Tyler and Michael symbolize the two towers. Michael was 22 when he died, Tyler made it to 22 and just a little longer.. the same way the North tower collapsed not long after the South tower did.

I also saw another clue at the beginning of the film. Tyler is wearing an open white blouse wearing an orange tshirt underneath. This was what 'the falling man' was wearing, the iconic photograph of the man who fell out of the North tower.

jessegirl said...

Thanks for commenting in 2017! Very good additions!

Anonymous said...

Glad to be able to contribute to your great analysis! Thank you

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