Directed by Alonso Dominguez | Reviewed by Sabarno Sinha
All law professors agree that justice and the judiciary are unfortunately two separate entities. They are not interdependent in the current capitalistic society where sharp divisions between classes ensure that one section can afford the best and the other must rely on underfunded government resources. The other problem, which Jesse Wright has rightly pointed out in his story, is that of the Attorney-Client privilege which ensures that criminals can get away with anything even if they confess it to a living human being with a conscience who is known as a criminal lawyer or the counsel. This issue becomes even more important now that we see some of the most significant celebrity trials underway and it is difficult to pinpoint as to who is the real culprit. In The Memory Scanner, Wright has tried to develop an eponymous concept which, as it sounds, is able to extract memories from the human brain in a painless process and create digital images out of them as though it were a movie. The film foregrounds the creation of this device as we see an innocent man being led to the electric chair and his lawyer, Steven, being unable to do anything despite knowing his innocence. Steven works hard as an attorney to make sure that he does right by people but unfortunately, it damages his personal life. His wife and daughter are more distant to him than ever and sadly, they both get raped and murdered brutally. This induces him towards his earlier mission and he teams up with a neurologist, Dr. Ellie Powell, who also tries to invent a machine that would read certain brain waves in the hypothalamus and then transmit them to a TV screen as digital media. While going to her office, Steven meets with an accident. He hits an electric pole and is electrocuted himself but instead of harming him, it slows down a tumor in his brain and also activates his hypothalamus in such a manner that he is not only able to remember things that he should not but also become a medium through which the memories of others can be transmitted. With his newfound powers, Steven perfects the memory scanner and they are able to put it to test in a government-controlled scenario. The machine works flawlessly as it elicits the right memories from one of the suspects and at the end of the session, he confesses to its guilt. The tragic part is that a man had already been charged and sentenced to death for the crime. The film ends on a happy note as the police are able to find the killer who murdered Steven’s family and he even goes as far as taking Powell hostage when his memories are out there for all to see. While privacy is an essential issue in such kinds of technology, one is forced to beg the question: would an innocent person who is waiting for death or jail care about their privacy? They have been driven to the end and have nothing to lose. I find no fault with the logic that Wright presents to us even if there might be certain complaints on that account. He has also imagined that this technology would be transferred from the USA to all across the globe, from the developing nations to the developed ones, and this is an idea which I personally support. There can only be justice if people decide not to be selfish with their own technology. How can we expect justice in a world run by greed and corruption? Lastly, to discuss the filmic elements, the storytelling and narrative is perfect and there is not much to say on that account. The film did suffer from bad audio as I understand there were issues with dubbing. The audio editing also had a few glitches along the way but it made up by the end. The cinematography of the film is not its strongest element. There have been attempts of unconventional shots but there was a lot of hit-and-miss. Some close-ups were quite good but some others did not seem to be fitting in the situation. Two things that I would particularly commend the film for are the music and the colours. The background score, throughout the film, was absolutely brilliant and depicted the mood, the atmosphere as richly as we expect it to. The colour palette of the film was also worth mentioning. The red colours used in the murder scene are my favourite in the film- they were brilliantly done. Lastly, I should once again thank Jesse Wright for his artistic vision in the field of science and justice. It has been translated well in the film and I hope that this passionate endeavor translates to solid action for our posterity and for justice.
Sabarno Sinha is an undergraduate student of English at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. He was active in the debating and MUN circuit in Kolkata. Sabarno frequently writes short stories, poems and screenplays for short films. A lover of world cinema, Sabarno finds pleasure in watching contemporary as well as classic films from Japan, Italy and Germany among others.