Thursday, 13 September 2007

Films about identity and responsibility

Yes, really, Hollywood does make them.

The Bourne Trilogy (rounded off a month ago with The Bourne Ultimatum) and Unknown (a smaller-scale, edgy drama) both raise the question of 'did I do it?' If your memory goes, can you still be held responsible for what you did before then...?

What kind of reconciliation is possible if you are, in crucial respects, a different person? Jason Bourne is OK because he had no meaningful ties prior to losing his memory, and he killed lots of bad guys so he must be alright now... But the man who turns out to be the main protagonist in Unknown is in a slightly more tricky state. After all, his memory is coming back in the closing moments of the film, and what he sees he does not necessarily like...

More seriously, Christians must affirm a continuity of personhood despite a loss of memory, or otherwise all believers with Alzheimer's and serious dementia would have no hope. Of course it is the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit that will preserve such believers despite what appears to be completely lost from the perspective of the observer. On the other hand, we must recognise some sort of discontinuity when it comes to how we deal with people with Alzheimer's who become violent or foul-mouthed, who appear to have a totally new 'personality'. If they forget or reject Christ because of brain degeneracy, 'they' have not done so.