I wonder what makes a scene worth remembering. Maybe you can help me in telling me which scene you remember and why it’s still cristal clear in your memory. Any movie will do.
The point is to know whether they are objective qualities to a scene or not, meaning is this our experience (intra and extracinematographic) that makes the scene lasting or the scene itself;
Mathieu, the scenes I remember best have a deep emotional hold on me. I can’t even think about the final minute of “The Yearling” without getting choked up. A boy has just returned home after running away. He was angry for having to put down his pet deer for destroying the family’s crops. Reconciled with his parents, he dreams of himself running with his deer. The movie had resonance about the end of childhood and the attachments we form, and strong connections to my own life, so the final scene affected me deeply, and I remember every second of it, visually and aurally.
I don’t know if this helps, but I find that music lends itself to clearer memories. I think this can be a general life rule, but especially in cinema. The soundtrack is a serious part of a film. After viewing a film for the first time, I’ll usually remember key moments when a song was playing. They are the easiest to visualize. For example, I saw “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” recently. The scene that was playing in mind when I left the theatre was when Javier Bardem and Rebecca Hall are listening to the guitarist play “Granada”. The song, along with the images, were fixed in my memory. I had trouble remembering a lot of the scenes where there was only dialogue.
I really enjoy remembering specific scenes from films. Every year a group of friends and I make a top ten list like most cinephiles world-wide, but we have additional categories like: best scene and best moment. These are sometimes from films that don’t even make the top ten, though most of the time the level of filmmaking shines through in all aspects. One example that comes to mind immediately is from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, when Li Mu Bai (I believe) is hopping across the water. It’s one of Lee’s masterful poetic asides from a film filled with them, and something about that one moment in particular stands out. I would also argue that the “baptism” scene in There Will Be Blood is one of the most memorable of that film as well. The former brings together the beauty and simplicity of the filmmaker’s passions with the story of the film while the latter is a prime example of throughly drawn and acted characters coming head-to-head in a pivotal moment in the narrative. Great filmmakers can create moments of pure brilliance from their already great films, though decent filmmakers can also achieve moments of greatness in otherwise mediocre films; it is these moments that stay with us forever.
Jesse, I do agree with you, any filmmaker can produce a scene worth remembering. I guess each and every movie (bad to good to better) can hide five minutes of pure grace. But for instance I wonder why I do remember the baptism sequence (but not that good) in there will be blood and the opening too (not that bad). Why do you remember this sequence precisely?
Marko, I am very much like you, when it talks too much, i can’t remember. But are we the only ones? My guess is we are not. I hav seen the Vicky…, and the flamenco guitar scene is staying (blurred) in my memory, but I can figure the movement of camera and the faces (Bardem and the girl, end the square). Do you think the music is there to trigger your memory hability?
Tom, thank you for the help. so you think that memorable sequences (the sequences you do prceisely remember) are tied to your emotional background. Can you think of a sequence that you can’t conect to that background, that you got planted in you because of his plastic beauty, of his music or something else?
The matter is that we can’t know if the scene works objectively if we don’t tell plainly and precisely the souvenir we’ve got.
I’ll come back later to tell you a scene i remember…
Mathieu, great insights. Hmmm, so many scenes, so many memorable ones. Often I forget a scene until the second time I see a film, and thereafter, it stays with me, For some reason, when I saw Annie hall the first time, I completely forgot about the animated (Snow White) sequence. But that second time it impressed me so much that I never forgot it. I still think it’s a combination of technique, or subject matter, that connects somehow to a viewer on a personal level…and to one’s frame of mind while viewing. On the flip side, I clearly remember scenes, often badly-done, in some films that horrified me on personal. aesthetic, or emotional levels, that I can’t forget but wish I could. So a scene may burn itself into my memory that wasn’t particularly good. Hope I haven’t confused the issue or responded off-topic.
You talkin’ to me?
I can’t quite describe why this scene works, other than it’s Hitchcock pulling the strings. And who knows why I choose it over so many other possibilities: the title number in “Singin’ in the Rain,” the umpteen memorable moments of “The Godfather,” a swallowed-by-the-crowd mime in “Les Enfants du Paradis.” But I’ll forever remember Tippi Hedren on a playground, menace amassing behind her, and the sing-song voices of children oblivious to the terror about to erupt. It’s another of this master director’s masterpieces of orchestration, and its ingredients – childish glee and palpable dread – hasten my heartbeat just thinking about it.
I can recall instantly frank TJ mackie’s talk with his father from his entrance at the door until earl’s last moments. Although the scene is cut and placed between a number of others.
The Royal Tenenbaums
Needle In the Hay
Richie’s attempt at suicide.
“Singin’ in the Rain” – Clockwork Orange
Tons of others…
The Godfather I remember pretty much the whole movie.
One scene that always sticks in the memory is the mother-daughter confrontation at the end of Mike Leigh’s “Life is Sweet.” All dialogue, no music, cutting back and forth from mother (Alison Steadman) to her daughter Nicola (Jane Horrocks.) Nicola is a young lady with many hang-ups: she’s bulimic, endlessly cynical, snotty, and just plain impossible to live with. The scene starts simply enough, with the mom telling Nicola that she needs to get her ass in gear, which leads to a heated argument that becomes deeply and dramatically revealing, as well as intensely heartbreaking. It’s the most simple scene in the world, and that’s what makes it work — along with a brilliant script and two actors at the top of their game.
Tarkovsky’s Solaris – Hari’s regeneration, so disturbing and sad.
I really like that scene in The Last Picture Show where Sam is telling Tim Bottoms about how he and Cybil Shepard’s mom used to be in love. It’s windy and he’s in front of the lake talking about the past and Bogdanovich moves in on Sam as he becomes more and more nostalgic, then the camera goes back to where it was once the story’s done and everything’s back to normal. Sad, sad, sad.
And eventhough it’s just Sam talking, I actually have a picture in my mind of Ellen Burstyn riding a horse naked across the lake for a silver dollar.
Probably the most romanic scene in any movie I have seen is from “Out of Sight,” when George Clooney and Jenifer Lopez meet in a bar and negotiate the terms of their “break.” Soderbergh cuts between the bar and a flash forward to the hotel room, but runs the dialogue straight. It perfectly evokes the kind of blurred and heightened reality that falling in love can be. It blew my mind, and is a really standout scene from an otherwise pretty straight forward caper movie. He used the technique much more in “the Limey,” but I think maybe too much.
If I follow Eric’s and Anggelo’s posts there is something essential in the space and time play and display : I mean when time and space tend to identity, in other words when time and space become something else in a sequence then you can remember it.
But I may say it would be a bit more usefull if you described the sequences you remember, as you remember it. It would be good tring and explaining why the memory worked there where it’s sinking in oblivion most of the time.
Sometimes memory is a big lie you can’t solve. Sometimes it’s cristal clear and tends to be exactly what you saw.
My real problem is to understand why in a movie there is only one or two scenes you remember (sometimes more). Tom Samp’s telling us that it must be connected to our intimate experience, our deep self. Is it true, I mean is it the way it works all the time.
IS it possible to think that directors are working for thoses peculliar sequences, so that they can be remembered no matter whta you feel or no matter who you are. That’s the problem. It can be solved if you give details. Details, are I believe the quintessence of cinéma. “God is in the details” he said.
The second section of “Mulholland Drive”—when the story shifts to Camilla Rhodes and Diane Selwyn’s dissolving relationship. I can’t remember every single shot in order, since the order becomes so scattered. David Lynch begins to pull in all the loose threads from the first half of the movie and tie them up here, making…a big ball of loose threads, essentially, but it’s so compelling and strange that you don’t really need to understand what’s happened. Mostly, I remember one shot that affected me strongly. It shows Diane lying on the bed, with thick smoke billowing into the room and clouding the shot. I couldn’t get that out of my head for days after I saw the movie for the first time.
Also, the ballroom scene of Sokurov’s “Russian Ark” is ingrained in my memory. The fantastic costumes and the sheer complexity of the scene, let alone the whole movie, was shocking. Most of all, the last five minutes of the film stick out, as the camera follows all of the hundreds of partygoers down the stairs and through the hallway, and finally ducks out a side door into some supernatural haze. Beautiful.
I was thirteen years old when I first saw the Walken/Hopper showdown in “True Romance,” and it was like they detonated a bomb inside the part of my brain that stored everything pop culture-related. That was sixteen years ago, and if I can steal a line from another memorable film scene, but I’ll bet a month hasn’t gone by since that I haven’t thought of that scene.
The final scene from Fight Club… where the buildings are being blown up and both of them are quietly staring at them… feeling so lost and so hopeful.