The impact of amnesia of a character has been explored in film before, but what of a whole world struck by this condition? Embers, a film playing tonight at the Sarasota Film Festival, follows the lives of characters living in a world where no-one can remember the past. If this film is taken at gospel, civilization would take a hit, and survivors might just relish the chance to forget everything around them when they go to bed at night.
“Without people maintaining a man-made world, things fall apart really fast,” says Director Claire Carré, who wrote the film with husband Charles Spano. The movie, part of this year’s Independent Vision competition, screened for a Sarasota audience Wednesday and plays again again tonight at 7pm.
For her first feature film, Carré said wanted to capture the essence of identity and decided the memory was the place to start. “My memory is particularly unique to who I am,” she says. “Even this moment right now, when we both think about it a week later, we are going to remember it differently.” So settled on writing a script about memory loss. Then as the couple binge-watched Star Trek: The Next Generation, it occurred to them to make an entire world where everyone was suffering from the same ailment, a neurological disorder that made everybody forget the past.
So is it 50 First Dates meets Star Trek? “More 50 First Dates meets Stalker,” Carré jokes. “Or Children of Men,” adds Spano. In another words, less optimism, more darkness.
The writing duo carefully read Alan Weisman’s book The World Without Us, a speculative fiction book that looks at what would happen to Earth if the human population just vanished. This became an important resource for creating a world where everyone forgot to do their contributions to society, or forget even how to do it. The New York subway system would flood within 36 hours of water pumpers being neglected, for example. “It gave us very specific facts about what would happen if everyone stepped away,” she said. “It’s wild. Things change a lot quicker than you would think.”
And thus, the film takes on a post-apocalyptic feel. The film follows five story lines, among the most high-profile a romance between character credited as Guy (Jason Ritter) and Girl (Iva Gocheva). But there is also a story of a few people who avoided this mental plague, of a girl named Miranda (Greta Fernandez) who has lived in a bunker nine years with her father and starts to wonder whether living among other people is worth risking her own memory. “Eventually her father is going to die and it will be just her,” Spano says. “Will she risk her memories to be free and among the rest of humanity?”
The film has earned acclaim at other festivals. It was chosen as the Closing Night film at Slamdance and won Best Feature at the New Orleans Film Festival.