I Remember Nothing

Nick Holdsworth on First Lights selection I Remember Nothing by Diana Sara Bouzgarrou (international premiere).

I Remember Nothing (Je ne me souviens de rien, Diane Sara Bouzgarrou, 2017)

Opening with a shot from the director's handheld video camera in a shared apartment, as she and her flatmates drink champagne and toast each other's health, the introspective style of I Remember Nothing is immediately apparent.

A rapid sequence of video images - shots of mobile phone message screens, the director's half naked reflection in a bathroom mirror, random items of clothing and street shots - flash before one's eyes like the fragmented jigsaw of the previous night on the morning one awakes with a crashing hangover. It is a giddy introduction to what is to come.

This is how Diane Sara Bouzgarrou announces her video investigation into an amnesiac period in her life. As she writes in her own notes about the film: "As the revolution bursts in Tunisia, my father’s country, I am being diagnosed bipolar while experiencing an intense manic episode. I am left almost entirely amnesiac. Five years later, I find hours of footage showing everything I had gone through. The project of this film: to recover my memory and show the reality of this condition."

The project began five years after a month-long stay in a psychiatric clinic. By sifting through hundreds of hours of videos, dozens of photographs and two notebooks full of writings and drawings, she begins to piece together elements of the unsolved puzzle of her memory.

The resulting film questions the nature of memory itself, as well as how the mind works. For anyone who has ever come across a faded photograph or a letter written long ago and realised they have no recollection whatsoever of those events, this is compelling viewing.

A mixture of experimental filmmaking, home video and reportage, I Remember Nothing is by turns unsettling, intimate, and even at times facile. To what extent do we really share the director's intimate struggles with her memory and self? To what extent is her life like that of all of us, made up of mundane moments, where love sometimes has the power to keep the overwhelming tides of meaninglessness at bay?

It's not an easy film to watch as her sea of images brings the viewer back time and again to their own life and petty concerns. As honest as a curated array of images can be, it conveys the truth of a young woman's experience in recovering a portion of her life lost to mental anguish.

Random shots peer out of car windows, inside trains at night, and at fragments of art installations and her artist friends. There’s a late night insomniac attempt to compose a song called "Take Care of Yourself and Shut the Fuck Up," with Diane talking directly to the camera, her face framed in a dark frizz of hair with a crucifix of beams on the ceiling above her. it is clear that her agony is here, in a jumble of scattered pieces from which she hopes to retrieve meaning and pattern.

Diane has moments of clarity from that time, fireworks on New Year's Eve and other fragments. But the trauma of her hospitalisation, seen here in fragmentary episodes that reflect the disintegration she experienced at the time, seems to have wiped her memory clean.Only by investigating her personal past through video and other artefacts is she able to reclaim those lost years.

In I Remember Nothing Diane understands that time lost is gone forever. She can only strive to turn personal loss into art, as she acknowledges in her final statement: ”This notion of a time lost, which we'll never make up for.”|


Nick Holdsworth  

Nick Holdsworth is a writer, journalist and filmmaker with 25 years’ experience of covering Russian and Eastern European affairs. He has served as Moscow correspondent for the (London) Sunday Telegraph, the (London) Times Higher Education Supplement and Eastern Europe correspondent for The Hollywood Reporter and also Variety. He has also produced radio programmes for the BBC and television reports for WTN.





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