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Thus we see that in memory erasure, the mind is not rendered “spotless” but is riddled with holes. lot [of the] spotless mind” is thus exposed, and rather than being healed, the characters are haunted by the feeling that they do not entirely know themselves.The result is an incomplete and fractured self lacking in substance and meaning, which the film externalises in the cracked surface of the frozen lake, the recurring imagery of the The invalidity of Mary’s ideal of the “happy . Yet the damage engendered by the erasure does not end here. of their blunders.” Herein lies a fault in Lacuna’s ideology.
Indeed, Edwards pinpoints an important message of the film when she warns, “A spotless mind comes fraught with its own horrors.” For the characters’ reactions to their erasure call into question an important link that is never evoked in Lacuna’s ideology: that between memory and identity. nothing makes sense to me.” It is clear that Clementine feels the rupture in the continuity of her experience caused by the erasure, verbalising this as an inexplicable feeling of emptiness and disorientation.
From Ricoeur to Freud to Locke and back again, the interdependence of memory and identity has long been a topic of fascination for scholars. (The clinic’s name becomes relevant here, as a “lacuna” is a gap or missing part.) Clementine is, of course, unaware of exactly what she has lost, yet she feels the loss nonetheless: not so much the absence of the memory but the presence of the lacuna.
Indeed, while the procedure is in fact based on actual brain research conducted around the time of the film’s release, goes on to expose Lacuna’s promotion of memory erasure as a means of healing trauma as highly problematic.
As might be expected, the characters’ recovery is far from seamless.
Yet the film ultimately suggests that the self is not soothed or repaired by memory erasure, but made fundamentally different.
‘s characters could be forgiven for believing that the erasure of traumatic memories promises deliverance from suffering.
I don’t know why.” Though he is in actual fact responding to the phantom influence of one of his lost memories (before the erasure is complete, he and Clementine promise to reunite in Montauk, where they first met, to recommence their affair), his post-erasure self can assign no meaning to his actions.
Jason Sperb has suggested that this very “not knowing why” is “Joel’s motivation throughout [much] of the film; he does not understand why he is so empty.” Indeed, Joel’s mind is made “spotless” by the procedure, but this does not result in the healing promised by Lacuna.
The suggestion is that the erasure produces an underdeveloped version of the pre-erasure, more experienced self: in removing consciousness, it cripples the patient’s ability to evolve.
We have seen how memory erasure affects the mind on one level, in the physical deletion of memories, and on another in its adverse effect on the patient’s conception of time and self.