Living Memory

by Rees-Mogg, Anne

Film: 16mm 1980


The title is a cliche revisited: it refers to the layers of my own and other people's memory of the place where I grew up. Living Memory is a film which is to some extent a third part of a trilogy with Real Time and Sentimental Journey. My intention was to explore the landscape where I spent my early life, and to some extent the people who helped me to inhabit it. So I started by flying over this landscape and was filmed while doing so. My new view of a place with which I am very familiar is an important aspect of the film. Apart from the air shots the film is constructed around a walk round the landscape, which consists of a series of pans in each of which my nephew appears, interspersed with tracks looking inwards from the roads around it. So far it looks rather like a English landscape film, but it is interspersed with material which subverts this appearance. Quite a lot of shots, reworked on the Co-op optical printer of the same two young men as boys in 1966 from my first home movie in the same place, also slides from my mother's funeral and one of my nephew's wedding at a church at the edge of the landscape. The look of the film is further questioned by the soundtrack. This centres round a quotation from A.J Ayer 'There is nothing more to things than what can be discovered by listing the totality of the descriptions which they satisfy.' Also from T.S. Eliot 'What is actual is actual only for one time and for one place.' Also quotations from the Collinsons History of Somerset, Pevsner, Goethe, and finally Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, which are descriptions which point to the impossibility of describing. The central area of the film, the walk round the landscape, has mostly the soundtrack of a fairly desultory conversation and instructions that were given at the time which contradicts the formality of the pans and tracks of which it is largely composed. There is also a special section called heroes which celebrates the people who helped me make the film. I had wished to give them autonomy over the shots they had helped to create, and had chosen them for their particular abilities, but found that it was not possible for me not to take a very tight personal control in the end, so I used a device, as in Sentimental Journey, of an argument between two voices which are in fact voicing my own disagreements with myself. The title is a cliche, revisited, it refers to the layers of my own and other people's memory, and also to the memory of the viewers of the film.


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