Isabelle Tollenaere's The Remembered Film (2018) is exclusively playing on MUBI from March 5 - April 4, 2020 in MUBI's Brief Encounters series.
There are a few elements that led to the making of this short film. It was foremost remembering the very young British war reenactors I had once seen at a reenactment festival in England when working on my previous film Battles. How I was taken aback and moved by them, because they so clearly reminded me of all these young people that have been sent and are still send off to war today, while the boys I saw were merely playing war.
Then there were two books. Paul Virilio's War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception, in which he writes about the many connections between the two, one of them being the element of spectacle. How "war can never break free from the magical spectacle because its very purpose is to produce that spectacle."
In his book The Remembered Film, on which I based the title of my short film, Victor Burgin writes how cinema transports us into imagination, and leaves the remembrance of a real world behind in our memory. As time goes by, the more the narrative of a film dissolves. The film fragments get lost in our mind and connect with memories of events we experienced ourselves. This is how our personal history blends with the fiction we watch.
Thinking about all these entanglements between war and spectacle, film and memories, I decided to return once more to that war reenactment festival. There I asked the young re-enactors on the spot if they could tell me a memory of their favourite war film, from the point-of-view of the character, as if they’d lived the scene themselves. They stand in front of the camera and reminisce about Saving Private Ryan, Apocalypse Now, Black Hawk Down and other American war films.
A friction between imagination and reality arises, from the fiction to which the boys testify but haven’t experienced, but which genuinely has imprinted a memory in their minds, in the midst of other real-life memories. Thus unfolds an intrinsic relationship between storytelling, memory and history. How forming memories is subject to fictionalization. Just as history is a process of creative storytelling, a subjective construction. In doing so I tried to reveal those mechanisms, and tried to critically look at the representation and the culture of war, but at the same time marvel at the wonder that cinema is.