Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Theater of the Mind

A Movie Review

Jordanian director Omar Naims film The Final Cut is one of the more unusual movies I've seen in a while. Set in a world (the future or perhaps more likely an alternate reality judging by the production design) in which roughly 1 in 20 individuals has something called a Zoe implant (Zoe is a Greek word for life) inserted in their brain before birth that records all their experiences. The purpose of the implant is to provide a complete audio and visual record of a persons life, which after death is edited down by a person called a ''cutter'' into a roughly feature length compilation of highlights called a "rememory" as a keepsake for family and friends.

Robin Williams is a cutter named Alan, who haunted by the memory of a childhood trauma and made cynical by his job, has been a quite near emotionless human being. Alan specializies in 'cutting' the lives of truly un-likeable people in such a way as to make them seem pleasant and admirable, or as his one time fellow cutyer Fletcher (Jim Caviezel) says "you make sinners look like saints". Fletcher had left the order of cutters after his nephew died and his sister withdrew from society in favor of watching countless hours of her late sons unedited Zoe footage. Hooking up with a group of anti-Zoe activists (slogan: "Remember for yourself"), Fletcher re-enters Alans life in the hopes of gaining access to the unvarnished life footage of his ex-coworkers latest client, an executive at Zoe who is rumored to have sexual abused his young daughter. A fierce adherent to the cutters code of ethics Alan refuses to surrender the footage, but does chose to use it for his own purposes after he discovers the image of a man who should have been long dead in a recent memory of the deceased.

Though the story itself seems kind of old pulp, the fascinating concept that underpins it makes up for other weaknesses. This movie presents us with a new moral dilemma, the efficacy of these implants were they to exist. I found myself throughout the film wondering where I would stand on this issue. On the one hand my own fear of death and desire to leave something of myself behind would make me want an implant. On the other hand who would want to live in a world knowing that your every moment, and lets face it we are never always at our best, could be recorded and come back to use decades later. Both sides of this issue are effectively presented in the film, and I find that like stem-cell research both positions make me somewhat uncomfortable (though on stem-cells the fact that they could possibly save lives I find outweighs any of the more abstract questions of the humanity of embryos). Ultimately I am undecided on what I think about 'Zoe Implants'. However I am not undecided on The Final Cut, its not great but still worth remembering.


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