Film, Music, Memory, by Berthold Hoeckner. Cinema and Modernity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019. viii, 278 pp.HAMLET: My father!--methinks I see my father. HORATIO: Oh, where, my lord? HAMLET: In my mind's eye, Horatio. (1)
The idea of a "mind's eye," of externalizing internal thoughts and memories, has been a preoccupation of writers throughout literature. From Chaucer and Shakespeare to Philip K. Dick and Greg Daniels, who recently penned the 2019 hit Amazon series Upload, writers have long been interested in examining how and why the brain remembers. With the introduction of mechanical remembering devices--photographs, sound recordings, film, television, and streaming media--a parallel "culture of memory" has blossomed. Berthold Hoeckner's book Film, Music, Memory considers the privileged place cinema has had in this culture. Because of its ability to see and hear, unconsciously record and be consciously edited, film has changed not only the way we dream, but also how we remember and visualize the working of the mind's eye.
Like most film music scholarship, Hoeckner's study is fundamentally a restoration project. It works to counter film scholarship's persistent visual bias by reminding critics that film has a soundtrack. The depiction of memory in cinema, too, it turns out, is especially dependent on the intricate interplay of both audio and visual information. If the mind has an "eye," Hoeckner illustrates over the course of seven carefully organized chapters, then it most certainly also has an "ear."
In his study of the early film soundtrack, Sound Technology and the American Cinema, film scholar James Lastra considered the extent to which the construction of the film soundtrack was guided by cultures of hearing--that is, by strategies designed to restage the act of listening. (2) Hoeckner's examination of the "culture of memory" is equally essential and draws on similar comparisons between human and mechanical processes. He reflects on how cinema has shaped our understanding of memory and vice versa, how our understanding of memory, artistic and scientific, has shaped the grammar of cinema. To describe this book broadly as a study of the "flashback," cinema's most ubiquitous mnemonic strategy, would not be wrong. But Hoeckner's imaginative scope also embraces a host of reflective narrative strategies where filmmakers have employed the soundtrack to restage acts of memory. The book highlights the deep interconnectedness between human and mechanical processes by parsing the topic into three recent, digital concepts: storage, retrieval, and affect. This allows Hoeckner to consider a wide variety of examples from classical-era directors George Stevens, Max Ophiils, Compton Bennett, and Robert Mulligan to contemporary filmmakers Nora Ephron, Woody Allen, Cameron Crowe, Giuseppe Tornatore, and Omar Nairn, as well as more experimental work from Jean-Luc Godard, Alexander Kluge, and Federico Fellini. He cuts across national styles, industrial processes, and personal tastes in ways that highlight not only the persistence of memory but also the central role music has played in shaping, triggering, and representing it.
Much of the critical framework for Film, Music, Memory is rooted in familiar territory. Hoeckner revisits seminal...