Memory & Nostalgia in Film: Chapter One

Memory & Nostalgia in Film: Chapter One

Sigmund Freud, in his book The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), wrote:

“Our memory has no guarantees at all, and yet we bow more often than is objectively justified to the compulsion to believe what it says.”

Indeed, we can never be confident that our memory of the past is entirely correct, the story we tell ourselves has an indisputable influence on who we are. The experiential reality of remembering, which seems to be strongly related to repetition, as well as the basic purpose of memory are shrouded in mystery.

A Summer's Tale (1996), dir. Éric Rohmer

Films, especially, are more than a projection to this freudian thought, and many auteurs have got their inspiration, or even recollect their own experiences, from this human condition, to wit memory and nostalgia. 

This is Chapter One of 5 films about Memory & Nostalgia.

Aftersun dir. Charlotte Wells

The combined happiness and personal melancholy of a vacation Sophie went with her father twenty years prior are recalled by adult Sophie. As she struggles to make sense of the father she knows with the father she didn't, memories—both real and imagined—fill the spaces between the miniDV film.

The Tree of Life dir. Terrence Malick

The impressionistic tale of a 1950s Texan family. In the movie, the eldest son, Jack, struggles to reconcile a tumultuous relationship with his father as he moves from the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years. Jack feels lost and confused in the modern world, searching for explanations for the beginnings and purpose of life while also doubting the validity of religion.

Paris, Texas dir. Wim Wenders


Uncertain of his identity, a guy ventures out of the desert. His brother locates him and aids in bringing back memories of the life he was leading before to leaving his family and going missing four years ago.

Little Fish dir. Chad Bartigan

When a memory loss virus spreads and poses a threat to erase the history of their courtship and love, a couple struggles to maintain their connection. We observe how the disease impacts first the couple's friends and then the couple themselves as the world grows more desperate for a treatment.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind dir. Michel Gondry

Joel Barish chooses to follow suit after learning that his girlfriend had a procedure done to remove him from her memory. He realizes that he still loves her as he experiences his memories of her fading, but it could be too late to rectify his error.


Photo Credits: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), dir. Michel Gondry
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