Memory has been and remains a favorite topic of Holly wood, for good reason. It can act as a powerful and dramatic plot device, setting up sever obstacles in films such as The Bourne Identity and Memento. And it functions simultaneously as a character study. It dramatizes the questions “if I can’t remember myself then who am I?”
Consider this exchange, from the film Regarding Henry:
Henry: No thanks, I don’t like eggs.
Rachel: Eggs are your favorite!
Henry: Okay, then give me lots of eggs!
In Regarding Henry, Harrison Ford’s character – his way of behaving and responding to life – takes a dramatic shift when he loses his memory. Not knowing who he was, he does not know who he is. He is left without a story about himself and he must now write a new one with nothing to go on.
We tend to think of memory as a kind of record-keeper of the past. However, it is actually memory that informs our image of who we are in the present and has a tremendous impact on decision-making that affects our future. It is up to memory to enable the brain to make predictions about the possible consequences of future behaviors. From an evolutionary survival standpoint, memory is all about the future.