The Memory Thief

I continue to be way behind on movie reviews even though I’m seeing hardly anything.

The Memory Thief is a strange little film about Lukas, a toll booth worker who has a rather empty life until he becomes aware of an organization that records the memories of Holocaust survivors in video-taped interviews. He insinuates himself into the lives of a Jewish family (including Mira, a potential romantic interest), pretending to be Jewish. He is both a good man and intensely creepy at the same time. I often found it hard to watch, but also hard to stop watching.

Even over two months later, I can’t say that I’m sure what I think of the film. I am glad to have seen it, but I’m not sure I would recommend anyone make any special effort to see it unless the story sounds particularly intriguing. I’ll give it 2.5 stars out of .

I saw this at the Camera Cinema Club in Campbell on 4/13/2008. Gil Kofman, the writer/director/producer, was there to answer questions. Here are some notes that I wrote down (there are definitely some spoilers below):

  • Kofman studied physics before becoming a filmmaker
  • This is his first narrative feature
  • His father-in-law was a Holocaust survivor who wrote a play and asked Kofman for advice
  • Kofman’s wife’s reaction was like Mira’s
  • The toll booth signifies the making of selections
  • Kofman didn’t want to make a Hollywood film with obvious closure, so the film would stay with people
  • He wanted to explore the extremes of empathy–Lukas assumed it and destroys himself
  • Lukas becomes like a drug addict with the tapes, which incidentally, are of real Holocaust survivors
  • The fear of things you have only heard about but haven’t actually experienced can be stronger than “real” fears
  • This film is inspired by a book called Fragments, and also by a similar recent story around 9/11 survivors
  • The woman in a coma is not really Lukas’s mother but this is not clear in the film–Kofman didn’t want Lukas’s back story to be well defined
  • Lukas faces alienation in his job and in that he lives in a predominately Hispanic building
  • Lukas is rudderless
  • Lukas names the dog Jesus and wears a cross, and then forgets about it when putting his energy into being Jewish
  • Kofman wanted an actor who had done a lot of theater work and could be comfortable in his own skin for the longer shots
  • The film was shot out of sequence without rehearsal, and the lead actor still managed to hit all the right notes
  • The original cut was about 2:40, and Kofman could have saved a lot if he had known what was going to be cut
  • The interesting characters aren’t necessarily likable
  • The last third of the film is more and more symbolic and less and less realistic
  • Kofman doesn’t see the split between math/science and art
  • Kofman has shown the film to a producer of Schindler’s List–he has gone back and forth over whether he wants to show it to Spielberg
  • It is unclear why Mira would want a relationship with Lukas, but she doesn’t see most of the weird stuff–more just things like him visiting his mother–there was a re-shoot planned that would have helped explain all this, but they ran out of money
  • Kofman is working to get funding for his next film, which is a documentary
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