Memory is a problematic thing. It is necessary that I trust it, but at the same time I understand that it is malleable. On one hand, I have a very good memory—I remember my dad’s family sitting in my grandparents’ living room watching the fall of the Berlin wall. I was five at the time, not an age particularly known for being aware of world events, but I remember my family’s excitement. On the other hand, I have memories that are slightly warped in detail. The most obvious examples are my memories of movies, because I can track down the films and see how they are different from what I remember.
Now there were quite a few things I wasn’t allowed to watch when I was younger of which I saw parts. When I was a teenager, I set about tracking down these films. Sometimes, I was disappointed by how different the film was from what I remembered. Take for instance 1965’s The Collector, the way I remembered it perhaps shows my interest in radical retellings from a young age. In the film that I remember, the trapped woman has a lot more power and manipulates her captor. When I finally tracked the film down as a teenager, I was disappointed by how truly helpless the woman was, particularly when she tries to escapes but feels guilty for hitting her kidnapper with a shovel. The character of my memory wouldn’t have checked to see if he was all right; she would’ve got the hell out of there. Originally, I had only seen the end where the women was dying of pneumonia, and I created a story around it. A story that I, as young girl, wanted, one where the victim can get the upper hand. While the film may be a bit more realistic about the nature of abductions, I’m sad that what I remember doesn’t exist.
Of course, there are other times where I was pleasantly surprised by the real films. I remember catching bits and pieces a Red Riding Hood werewolf film. I was disappointed when I found 1989’s Little Red Riding Hood. Yes, some parts were obviously what I remembered, but I didn’t remember Coach being in the film. Also, where was that kick-ass werewolf transformation scene: the one were the wolf emerged from the person’a mouth discarding the human skin?
It was in another film: The Company of Wolves, one of my favorite films of all time. Since I wasn’t allowed to watch werewolf films, I had to switch to other channels whenever an adult walked through the room. My memory was just snippets of the film. So when trying to recall it, it was only natural to assume that I’d only seen one werewolf movie involving little Red Riding Hood rather than two. When I finally tracked down The Company of Wolves, I was surprised, but I much preferred the actually movie with its dreamlike quality and the fact there are several folktales, or at least folktale-like stories, embedded in the film. I even memorized Perrault’s poem that was recited at the end. Also, it introduced me to the writings of Angela Carter.
There are other memories that I’ve not been able to place. I remember watching a film where two teenage boys and a girl try to break into a crypt. The girl suddenly has vampire fangs and tries to bite one (there may have been two girls). I’ve never found the film that this scene belongs to, but because I’ve tried to track it down I discovered other films like Near Dark, Fright Night, and The Lost Boys. I sometimes wonder if I would even recognize the scene, maybe my memory is too different from the actual thing.
What can I take away from all of this? I’m not sure. Memory is a strange thing that changes, but it must be trusted because it’s all we have. Maybe what I can take away is that exploring memory is worth while even if it sometimes disappoints. There are several vague memories that I have no context for: the above mentioned vampire scene or a scene from another film where girl escapes in a car from people with no skin. I may never find these scenes again, because they only exist in my memory, but the search will be worth while.
(P.S. If you do recognize the scenes please tell me what films they are from.)