With each new stage of sensations, a character’s face changes and the world shifts. Zia Anger’s I Remember Nothing is about a girl, a game and epilepsy. Cruising on a pulsing rhythm reflecting the different chapters and a howling soundtrack, I Remember Nothing is a mood piece of the highest order. Bringing the audience quickly into this sort of estranged subjectivity, we are brought deep into a point of view that seems increasingly removed from reality.
The strangeness of the motifs, including an eerie rendition of the American National Anthem, are grounded in a confident seriousness. Surreal elements can’t help sneaking in, as the film builds weirdness through the unknown. At the heart of this surreal vision is about the reality that hides reality. This is most obvious in the actors changing with each new stage of Joan’s epilepsy. The reality of the outside both enhances and alienates the identity of the soul, creating an unnerving sense of contradiction. While we are undeniably seeing the world through Joan’s eyes, we are never allowed to understand her: she is an unwilling avatar for our experiences.
This sense of fluidity is also related to the flexibility of sex and gender, as the film seems to point to the battle between external expectations and internal sensations. Innately tapped into a growing sense of ownership over the body, I Remember Nothing counterbalances that through the physiological stages of epilepsy. The definition of “outsider” only starts to grow, offering conflict through the external battle against authority and as the internal one against your own body. The nuance of Anger’s film is that this isn’t a simple issue of self-harm or even violence towards yourself, but about the creeping weight of doubt and expectation.
Time seems to bend to the filmmaker’s will, deeply connected to Joan’s experience of it. The temporal quality of I Remember Nothing is incredibly sophisticated, shifting through Joan’s changing consciousness. With each new stage, time seems to change, rushing or dragging to fit the point of view. This makes for effortless shifts into dream or fantasy, as the cadence of dreams seems so deeply connected to the film’s internal rhythm. This similarly ties to memory, in particular as it shifts and transforms reality, as an inefficient measure of time. It brings into questions the speed and movement of thoughts and feelings.
Many of the best moments come in textural details that breath so much life into the film. Some images that stand out are light hitting Joan’s stubbled legs, the framing of a closed fist against a wrinkled baseball uniform and waking up in the dirt. This, combined with the film’s best selling point — its sense of humour — make for an incredibly rich experience. Creating something beyond just an experience of mood and sensuality, Zia Anger offers a film that is consistently engaging and fun. Directed by an incredibly promising voice on the horizon of a new American cinema, I Remember Nothing should be on your radar.
Justine Smith (@redroomrantings) lives and writes in Montreal, Quebec. She has a bachelor’s degree in Film Studies and a passionate hunger for all kinds of cinema. Along with writing for Vague Visages, she is the film editor of Sound on Sight and a freelance writer