Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remember Me and 9/11: Too Soon? - 10th Anniversary of September 11th Post

-jessegirl- September 11, 2011



Blue sky day
Ten years ago, to the day, the U.S. suffered the horrific terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, and on the Pentagon. The heroic efforts of the passengers on board flight #93, who sacrificed their lives to abort another planned attack, prevented further carnage. At the end of the day, 3,000 people had perished people from many nationalities and faiths.

Those of us, who witnessed the events, whether live or on TV, have the images burned into our brains and we will always remember where we were when that second plane hit. Although this loss affected us all, I would like to express my condolences to the families and friends of all of the victims, for your losses are personal and huge. I am so sorry. And I will hope you understand the spirit in which my words are written, lest we forget.

I revisit, yet again, the film Remember Me, and its place in memorializing this enormous loss. It has become even clearer to me that since it was released in March of 2010, this film is one of the best tributes to every individual who was lost that day.



Too Soon?
Was Remember Me made ‘too soon’ after the event? Some detractors criticized it for that. Well, first of all other films preceded it. World Trade Center, with Nicholas Cage, 2006, for example, was five years after the fact. And Adam Sandler’s Reign Over Me came out in 2007. The lauded From Here to Eternity, about Pearl Harbor, was out in 1953. When is the right time, after 10 years, 15, 20, 25, after a generation has passed?

People thought it was too soon because, as I read it, the wound was still too raw.
“I left the movie theatre feeling like I’d been psychologically assaulted because I did not choose to see a film on that subject. That is not what I signed up for...Maybe a scant 8.5 years had dulled the memory of the masses, but it’s too soon for me...I wasn’t prepared to be unwillingly made to relive that day.” [Sara. March 16, 2010. –Brevet]



Remember Me’s Power
Let’s backtrack. What does Remember Me actually do to some people, to a lot of people?

It has the power to tap into our grief in a big way. It ferrets out our memories of 9/11 and brings them back in painful detail. It also seems to root around the wounds in our hearts and makes them bleed again. We are brought right back to our own personal losses in a visceral way. We suffer, yet again, the loss of a husband, wife, child, and others dear to us. We start pondering other types of loss, divorce, rape, and so on. Unhealed wounds come to the surface to hurt again. Remember Me is like a trigger for any trauma we have experienced and perhaps trips us up, forcing us to experience PTS symptoms. It is all very personal and strong. When you think about it, so many people are the walking wounded, for so many reasons, having suffered various types of personal trauma.

“...this was supposed to be an assault on the senses. It is a wakeup call to everyone to not take each day for granted...My mother was murdered very similar to the scene in the subway...Films can’t disclaimer everything. We all have had things happen to us that we probably would rather not remember...but sometimes we need to be reminded so that we can grow and change for the better.” [Tamara. March 18, 2010. –Brevet]

Indeed, one big reason people were commenting so passionately about the film was to
share their pain with others. Those of us who read learned this fellow commenter had had a miscarriage, that one was abused, another had lost a child, yet another survived a terrorist attack. The stories poured out of hearts, couldn’t be contained. The pain kept coming. It was astounding.

People are shaken to the core. It is not just a sad movie, a tear jerker. It is a tragedy, and I don’t think our society makes us really ready to accept tragedy into our lives. Under our society’s influence, we do not see the benefits of tragedy. I have discussed Remember Me as a tragedy in past posts and I don’t want to go over old ground again here. [The Tragic in Remember Me and
Tyler in Remember Me - The Human Face of Tragedy


The poster, Sara, blamed the movie. I am sorry for her pain but that was not the right target. I like what this person had to say about it:
“Any movie at any time can call to mind upsetting or unsettling events in our own lives. We can’t be sheltered from them and we can’t always know ahead what is coming. That is a bit of the message of Remember Me.” [ShariG –March 22, 2010. –Brevet]



So what about grief? Remember Me explores grief, which is its major theme, the grief of the characters who have lost a brother to suicide, a parent to murder. Then, at its climax, it drives home the point relentlessly with Tyler’s death in the North Tower. The key character, who had been dealing with his own grief throughout, was now being grieved. Not only was that, the whole nation, the world, thrown into grief. It was too much. It was heartbreaking in a primal way. One couldn’t get away from it. It was everywhere.

Grief is part of the human condition. We have humor. We have joy. We have fear. We have grief. Films give us all of these. Why should Remember Me’s story offend? The tie to 9/11 reinforces its power to affect us strongly. To haunt, as so many viewers have said.

It shoves us up against the wall. We have nowhere to run. We must deal. If Remember Me’s story had been told with crass disregard using 9/11 exploitatively, as some contend, then it could not have this power. It would be found out as a fraud. Grieving people would not feel this power if that were the case. They might not be ready to take on the measure offered yet, but that is another matter. “Some can deal with it, others not [yet]. But this says nothing about the quality of the movie and is surely not a reason to write bad reviews about it.” [Anne. March 17, 2010. –Brevet]

No one should be told how to grieve but it has been my experience that it cannot be avoided. It is excruciating agony. It is zoning out. It is, at times, inability to cope with the usual life commitments. It can be tears, insomnia, catatonic-like behavior, overeating, not eating, letting oneself go, depression, fear for loved ones, panic, general anxiety, obsessive behavior, inability to concentrate, and more. Intense grief can contribute to substance abuse, to divorce, to suicide even. The circumstances around some grief can be hugely traumatic, not easily absorbed.

Some people don’t want to talk about the lost one and others want to talk incessantly about the lost one. Some people put photos away, and others put them all over the house. Some people can no longer listen to music. Various things can trigger relapses, instances of acute grief: certain pieces of music, certain words, a memory, a movie, a friend’s face, a building, a street, -anything really. And in many cases these triggers cannot be anticipated.



Not Ready
Remember Me is a trigger for so many, on many levels, and some people just cannot deal. When I talked about Remember Me as a tragedy I talked about the great alchemical transformation within us. We can be changed, moved, touched, and brought to greater awareness. We can be put in touch with the well of tears at the center of the world. But we must go through the pain. There is no way around it. None.

“And to those who are angry and feel as though they’ve been sucker punched by this, I do understand where you’re coming from. I, too, was profoundly affected by this event on a personal level. But at some point we must face this and we haven’t yet. Generations past have faced their tragedies and so must we. I’ll concede this, with being less than 10 years...perhaps it’s a tad too soon for a film like this. Maybe...Yes, we are still in tremendous pain over it. But at some point, we must face it.” [Nikola. March 16, 2010. Brevet] Yes, I agree, we must face it.

But some people are not ready for it. That is not a criticism, just an observation. For them, Remember Me’s message is ‘too soon’. Perhaps they lost someone on 9/11 and haven’t gotten to that place in their grieving which allows them to absorb the power of Remember Me. Grieving is a very individual process, even if it has aspects similar for all. And those famous five stages do not necessarily come in a particular order or last for a pre-set amount of time. Grief is fraught with backsliding; it is not a constant regression at all. It is mercurial, unpredictable, can burn one moment and lie dormant the next. And, until we die, it can re-appear, because, even when we have resumed some semblance of normalcy, it is still there. The lie is to think we get over it. We are never fully, ‘over it’, even if we have gone through it. We just live with it.

When the people who are not now ready for Remember Me’s message get to the place where they are ready, this film will be able to work its transformative might on them. They must wait. Abusing this beautiful film is not the answer. They must wait. And when they are ready, must crawl before they walk, walk before they run, run before they fly.



Would we rather be unaffected?
Now if a film has the power to tap into our grief, perhaps this is a call to attend to it in some way. Very few films can do this. I know for a fact that Remember Me has this power. It has this power over me and has had it over others who have commented on public blogs and websites.

If it has this power, does that mean it is too soon after the tragic event? The real question is, would we rather be unaffected? Really? Would that not mean that the event meant nothing to us? Being immune might just mean we are callous. Because the pain means it matters, the dead matter.

Here’s what a couple of viewers had to say: “Yes, this movie packs a punch. I just don’t think that’s a bad thing...Should it be painful to remember? Yes. To me this film is a touching, respectful way to do just that: to remember.” [Karen. March 28, 2010. –Brevet]

And: “...it is a movie that will move many but will also cause great pain to others and that is what the power of movies can do, whether good or bad.” [Linda L. –March 17, 2010, answering someone who had wanted warning. –Brevet]

If Remember Me has the power to tap into grief, does that mean that one should attend to it? Does it not mean that it was made ‘just in time’? If Will’s story had been filmed later, if they had waited longer, would it have had the same impact?



The Young
I’m guessing that anyone younger than, say seven at the time, would forget, or would forget the import and meaning of 9/11 or would get a skewed perception of it due to their youth and the protection of their parents, unless they were right there, in lower Manhattan, and had to escape the raging dust storm. So anyone born between, say, 1994 and 2010 wouldn’t remember. And if they did, it was a history lesson.

From comments, it is clear that a certain demographic did not remember. “My daughter’s going to be 17 this year and we live in Europe. She knew about 9/11 and was taught about it in school by documentaries. But....only after seeing Remember Me she realized the emotional impact on all those people living in NY and in America. ..I think Remember Me should be shown in high schools ‘cause there are several themes’ worth to be discussed about.” [blackbeanie June 10, 2010 IMDb Remember Me message board]
And: “My daughter is really too young to remember 9/11, but this was a chance for us to talk about it...” [Pam. March 15, 2010. –Reesman] These are not the only people to report this phenomenon.

If you were 15 yrs. in 2009 and saw Remember Me — perhaps because Robert Pattinson was in it — you would have been seven on 9/11. Some of those viewers thought Tyler committed suicide, and that confused them [Kim, April 29, 2010. –Brevet]. They had no idea about September 11th. To those of us who can pinpoint our exact location during those 102 minutes it is inconceivable that teenagers wouldn’t know. And yet, this is exactly what has happened. “For the younger generation, people who were too young to be aware of what happened then but know about it now, maybe bringing such a monumental catastrophe down to such an intimate, personal level will help them connect and understand that day in a way they couldn’t before.” [Jennifer L. –March 17, 2010. –Brevet]

I read again and again that ‘everyone knows what happened that day’—said by people who state that they don’t need to be reminded—but in fact that’s not true. The point is that everyone does not know. The other point is that everyone does not really understand the loss. Given that it is a consensus that we must never forget it is puzzling why some people don’t want to be reminded.



Too Late?
What happens if Remember Me is too late? Some tragedies happened too long ago to have the same effect. They feel historical, in a time presumably different enough to be irrelevant except to impart a teary lesson in a remote way. It was so long ago. Like the Trojan War, even WWII. We care, we cry, and then thank God that was then, this is now.

But 9/11? Remember Me was in theatres less than 10 years after the attacks, soon enough for it to turn us inside out. It would force us to attend to our grief. No way around. It would force us to learn the lesson, hear Remember Me’s message. It would force us to find meaning, so that Tyler’s death, so that every one of those deaths, was not in vain.

Is this bad? Why is this bad? Grief is one of the worst things thrown at us in life but we have to bear it somehow.

In fact, those of us who assert confidently that Remember Me will become a classic someday must understand that its monstrous power might be muted the farther away from 9/11 it gets. We are the ones who can feel its full strength now, if we let it. Although, given its genius, its insistence on keeping everything at an intimate level, I could be wrong. Like any great tragedy, its power to affect us at the epicenter of our being would remain undiluted, because it speaks to the universal through the personal.



Remembering
One can remember things, even horrible things, in a removed way, hear a speech, shed some tears, and then go on with life as usual. People are upset about Remember Me because it does not allow them to just skim the surface of memory. Instead it is heart-stopping. It gets right inside and won’t let go.

People have noticed that Remember Me polarizes. For example: “The film is extremely polarizing and personal...I think a great deal of the reaction was over reaction and knee jerk.” [Sammie1863. June 19, 2011. IMDb. ‘Most honest film regarding 9/11’ thread.]

I have come to the conclusion that the two camps are: *-those who refuse to remember in a meaningful way, who shoot the messenger because they won’t deal with real pain. Some of these will genuinely not be ready. I respect those for whom it is really too soon. But some others do not have the emotional depth to care. They are the ones who happily and contemptibly shoot Remember Me down for no valid reason. **-those who brave the firestorm of pain to grasp the true dimensions of what was lost. It is only the latter who will appreciate the heartfelt tribute Remember Me is. It is only those who are willing and able to really remember September 11th, who have the emotional and moral fiber to do it. Now.



Cheapening, Elevating, Deepening
I quoted Pattinson in another post [Robert Pattinson in Remember Me: Part One]:

As an actor, you can elevate the human condition or cheapen it. I would assume it’s the same with anything you do- you try to elevate and maybe someday you will.”[Robert Pattinson, speaking to Jenny Lumet for Details, March 2010]

A couple of quotes from viewers note the cheapening aspect.
I believe the only thing shameful about Remember Me is the critics who have cheapened a noble effort without so much as looking back –almost gleeful in their determination to tell movie audience to stay away.” [Coopergirl. March 16, 2010. –Brevet]

“This movie is a tribute, not an insult to the memories of all those who were impacted. It cheapens everyone, from those responsible for this film to the viewers, to the actual victims of that horrific day, to say otherwise.” [Karen. March 18, 2010. –Brevet]

Actually, it is not possible to cheapen something so authentically crafted as Remember Me. The attempt says more about the person trying to do so than about the movie. The point of origin for mud slingers is the dirt on their own hands.

I will springboard off this thought. I think one of the things Remember Me does is not only elevate, but also deepen the human condition. This is just as important. Elevating and deepening. Deepening is driving into the heart of it, making it profound. It is a very internal thing. It is a place where you encounter and accept pain and suffering. Elevating is lifting up, raising up, supporting, perfecting.

Deepening and elevating are not exclusive and humans need both, need to do both.
Elevating is pointless without depth. I think one of the things Remember Me does is not only elevate, but also deepen the human condition. And it is never too soon for that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Article references:

1) “Reacting to Remember Me: an Interview with Screenwriter Will Fetters”, by Brad Brevet.March 16, 2010. http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/article/reacting-to-remember-me-an-interview-with-screenwriter-will-fetters This post finished with 355 comments from viewers.

2) “Controversial ‘Remember Me’ Ending: Dividing Critics and Audiences”, by Bryan
Reesman. March 15, 2010.http://www.moviefone.ca/2010/03/15/remember-me-ending-controversy/20This post attracted 441 comments.

3) IMDb: Remember Me message boards: Various threads.

4) “Robert Pattinson on Life beyond Twilight”, by Jenny Lumet. Details. March 2010.
http://www.details.com/celebrities-entertainment/cover-stars/201003/twilight-star-actor-robert-pattinson-remember-me

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brilliantly insightful, Jessiegirl, as always. I agree wholeheartedly with your clear and impassioned perspective.

jessegirl said...

Kat,
Thank you for posting this on this significant day.
j

kalinca62 said...

Jessegirl: I just wrote a whole lot and went to post and lost it all! :( I wanted to tell you that your website is amazing.
Is RM too soon? For some, absolutely. For others, maybe. 9/11 was traumatic to our American psyche - never had we been attacked on our own soil before (except Pearl Harbor). We've had to deal with the fact that we are vunerable and there are things that are outside of our control. For those who lost family/friends, their grief will always be a part of who they are. For the rest of us it has left it's mark too.
I truly believe that Remember Me will one day be a classic film. When that day will be ?

twilitemom said...

Beautifully written Jessegirl. What an amazing gift you have given us all with this blog. I will never forget 9/11. God Bless America!!!

Anonymous said...

I sat down to watch it again yesterday evening. It's such a beautiful, artistic movie with such nuance where every single actor is performing so skillfully that I am certain it will be a classic, studied and remembered for many years to come.
DANA

Anonymous said...

Goosebumps reading your article, thank you, you speak so well. My opinion is not too soon as it focused on one or two families and not the towers. The character Tyler is one representative of the three thousand lost. Watched this DVD a few times after it came out and think in the future it won't be as painful.

WhyIstheRumAlwaysGone said...

Thnaks for posting jessegirl's article Kat!
jessgirl, once more a big heartfelt thank you for this beautiful, in-depth article. It's a real study of grief, of how RM works on our traumas, and a sincere tribute to the fallen. It's crystal-clear, as always, and so well-written, but more than that it really comes from the heart - you can see that. I hope many people will come here to this place and read it. You've done so much for this gem of a movie.

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