Innocence of Memories: Orhan Pamuk's Museum & Istanbul full movie review - Posting this here since the film is so severely underrated and under seen...
Written for Next Projection
Seeing Innocence of Memories provided one of the few times that I've left a theater in awe, as if life's essence had shifted in those past 90 minutes of pure cinema. Objects seen before suddenly took on a new light, informed by my newfound understanding of the intertwining of one's soul and conscience with memory. Objects suddenly felt alive, as if breathing, a phenomenon held fast in the heart of the film.
Based on the book and further writings of Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, Innocence of Memories is a reflection on the trans formative potential of objects and memory, of space and time, and of reality and fiction. In itself, it proves cinema as a form of transformation, as the film too becomes an object of memory. Gee gives life to what Kracauer once called the "dead world of things," by sharing an intimate study of the trans formative and metaphysical properties of objects.
If the metaphysical exists between subject and object, then Pamuk wishes to illustrate how the metaphysical exists through one's memories which are conjured up by experience of objects. All those things and places that becomes a part of one's life and history are made into permanent objects of one's memory. Upon revisiting these objects, such as in a museum, these objects will summon up those memories related to it. Those ballet slippers conjure up emotions of childhood, that gas station my feelings of Istanbul. With the loss of those slippers and gas station so too comes the loss of memory, as the object will no longer be there to summon those feelings.
A visual poem about memory, ephemerality, and the experience of memory through object permanence, Innocence of Memories takes on unique editing transitions wherein almost never there is a singular object on screen. Dissolves and double exposures ensure that the film always features a sense of fragmentation. The narrative, too, is fragmented, switching between a reading of Pamuk's book, voice-over from a friend, and voice-over interview footage of Pamuk himself. All of this serves the film's ethereal atmosphere which is akin to how memories interact in fragmentary design.
Thematically, the film is about a museum's ability to transform time into space. This is the metaphysical phenomenon which occurs through interacting with objects. The subject's memories are held fast in the object, of which permanence and museum heritage may be borne. Pamuk wrote his book with this idea in mind, that the character's lives would be represented in a museum of the objects which they shared their soul with. A love story about Kemal and Fusun, real people who lived in Istanbul which Pamuk only learned about through their forgotten properties, objects which convey their memories into their post-humous futures, Pamuk opened his Museum of Innocence as a fictional home and shelter of their belongings. These objects, of course, carry the narrative. In an almost magical nature, they recall the story. A chart of the 4213 cigarette butts smoked by Fusun delineates her life from youth to death, each cigarette a unique instance of a particular moment of her past. The chart serves as a calendar for the museum. In a similar vein, if one were to enter a person's room, the objects in said room would convey the narrative of that person's life.
The film crosscuts between scenes of objects in the museum and scenes of Istanbul; the city itself is said to be a museum for the people. It is part of author's life, history and memory, and it is transformed into a character in the film. In a poignant scene, an actress with over 200 films shot in Istanbul says that each square holds a memory of her filming there. These permanent objects would stay the same and hold the memories of all those who walked their path, as long as they remain untouched. This feature renders a sense of the importance of museums. If objects have such a luminous quality to transcend permanence and share in the metaphysical worth of conscience and memories, then there is a need to retain such objects so as not to forget these memories or become no longer conscious of their value.
Innocence of Memories is extraordinarily moving, poetic, and philosophical. The slow moving camera and transcendental editing moments fill the screen, while exceptional insight is provided through Pamuk's literary measures. A warm color palette with dark shrouded mystery brings a similar tone as the visual poems by Aleksandr Sokurov. Music throughout the film is quite powerful, especially during the final scene as well as the scene illustrating the chart of cigarettes. Many shots become motifs, such as that of the cigarettes, streets, lampposts, and shoes. These shots thus become objects of the viewers' memories, and transforms the film itself into an object of liminal, esoteric quality. Innocence of Memories thus draws awareness of itself as an exemplar of cinema's transcendental qualities. Its existence recalls "that time I watched this movie."