Innocence of Memories
The collaboration between noted British filmmaker Grant Gee (best known for the 1998 Radiohead rockumentary Meeting People Is Easy) and Nobel prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk is perhaps not an immediately logical pairing, but immediacy seems to be immaterial in Innocence of Memories, the sumptuous result of this meeting of minds. Centred upon Pamuk’s book, The Museum of Innocence, a 2008 novel fittingly noted for its representation of the cultural clash between East and West, this feature-length documentary explores the link between object and memory, set beautifully amongst Istanbul’s meandering midnight thoroughfares and bazaars.
The Turkish global city plays an integral role in the film, with Gee’s distinctive and almost dreamlike takes visualising the transitory nature of Pamuk’s “memories”. The 2008 novel from which the film takes its cue tells the story of Kemal, the son of a wealthy Istanbul family, and a poor shop girl called Füsun, who begin an illicit love affair. Between the summers of 1975 and 1984, Kemal proceeds to collect objects and various belongings of Füsun’s and after the liaison’s inevitable tragic ending, opens a museum of sorts in her old house. Beyond a fascinating and haunting love story, told with an abundance of characters and episodes travailing the depth of the human soul, the novel additionally examines, in considerably venerable detail, Turkey’s social and cultural history over the past decades – particularly the role of women. The issue of gender politics is one vignette of a tapestry of fragments assembled by Gee, overlaid with narration penned by Pamuk himself. What transpires is a spellbinding cinematic experience that feels like nothing else – not quite a retelling of a novel, but neither an entirely separate entity, exploring notions of the metaphysical and the city as a channel of collective memory.
That is the principal effect Innocence of Memories retains – the sense of the importance of institutions as the resting places of recollection. If individual objects possess these luminous qualities, and the ability to transcend perpetuity and share in the worth of conscience and memories, then there must be a need to preserve them somehow. Gee and Pamuk’s film has excellently accomplished this feat and preserving this work, along with the memories it contains, must be of paramount importance.
Innocence of Memories is released in select cinemas on 29th January 2016.
Watch the trailer for Innocence of Memories here: