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.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Remember Me Discussion Group

At the sweets shop, why does Charles interrupt the delightful exchange--Whistler--between Tyler and Caroline ("Pass the sugar.")? How does he feel about the beautiful relationship between his two remaining children?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Remember Me Discussion Group

Why does the thief shoot Ally's Mom?