Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Beginnings and Endings: Déjà vu in Remember Me

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.

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