Can I Remember It Differently?

This mesmerizing video essay was published in [in]Transition as part of the Once Upon a Screen project. That project originated in another journal, The Cine-Files, and asked contributors to reflect in videographic form on a very personal, even traumatic viewing experience dating back to their childhoods. For the second iteration of the project (Volume 2), Ariel Avissar and Evelyn Kreutzer added another element to the prompt they gave the participating video essayists. They first asked participators to write a text about a visceral, formative screen memory. Those texts were then redistributed among the video essay makers and served as the basis for each piece. While visualizing the traumatic screen memories of another person may seem like a strange and somewhat strained concept, it does (effectively and interestingly) bring collaborative authorship into the mix.


Cormac Donnelly was given Avissar’s text to work from. Instead of slavishly illustrating that text, he used it as a starting point for a stroll down a memory lane of his own making. He recalls a scene from Minority Report (2002, Spielberg) and the emotional effect it had on him – long after viewing it for the first time. This delayed impact (or après-coup, as Victor Burgin calls it) triggers Donnelly to ruminate on how and when movies generate their affective imprint. His investigation is not limited to the flickering projection of the film (and in the film), no. He digs up corroborating physical evidence in the form of DVD’s, magazines, and even an old mobile phone that helps shape and reshape his memory of the film.


“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards”, Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice in Wonderland. This video essay seems to be of the same mind, because Donnelly is not content with the memories the past has saddled him with. He seeks to recreate them, to remember them differently, by reactivating them in the present and thus crafting new memories for the future. It’s a thought-provoking process to witness, and the endlessly inventive visualizations Donnelly comes up with to support his personal quest are simply wonderful.


Cormac Donnelly’s piece is a hall of mirrors. It mirrors Ariel Avissar’s memories and his own. It mirrors images and text – text as images, and images as text. It reflects and projects, even literally so. The end result is a spellbinding piece that mirrors in its oneiric composition the fabric and fogginess of memory.