February 24, 2010

One Image

The other day I watched Au Bonheur des Dames (1930). This is not a post about the film, but rather about a phenomenon I notice often but never bother to describe--

My memories of a film fade in various ways. What was vivid to me while watching the film disappears with time, and as days pass I may remember nothing of a film but its name and my general opinion. Sometimes a perfectly wonderful film finds no traction in my mind and slowly escapes from it entirely. At other times a merely adequate film will latch onto me and stick with me for years because of one outstanding detail -- be it an action, a character, an image...

With this post, I want to pay tribute to that One Image that stays with me. What is it that gives One Image so much potency? What thoughts, emotions, impressions do I compress into One Image that I cannot feel elsewhere in the film? Why should One Image -- only one image -- be the one to reecho through my soul? Why does every other image scatter into shadows? O inscrutable One Image, I pay tribute to your power--

This was the One Image from Au Bonheur des Dames. I knew it as soon as I saw it.

Once seen, forever recognized. Does anybody else experience this One Image? How do films impress themselves in your memory? How does your memory of a film change?

I do not know why I have never asked these questions seriously before; I hope to get some good answers.


DG said...

I don't think there's usually a "One Image" for me; thinking back on films I've seen recently and old favourites it's less specific impressions that stay with me - several fleeting images, a character, my thoughts and associations as I was watching the film. There isn't usually one image that sticks out for me unless it's in a very prosaic way - stylistically different from the rest of the film or something.

A weird example that just came to mind is Mouchette. I remember three images: Mouchette's ugly face, her leaving a shop (grocer's?) and her rolling down the hill. Is this what you're thinking of?

Ian said...

Mouchette's ugly face...

I think the fleeting impressions you are talking about are what I'm talking about, too. The One Image for me is a frequent such impression and comes to dominate my memory of some films after a while.