The many stories of unmemory
“We are what we remember and what others remember about us” wrote MIguelanxo Prado in Ardalén. To Fidel, one of its protagonists, his memory sets traps that make him live a different reality. In Memento, as in Before I Go to Sleep, its protagonists cannot generate new memories, they suffer from anterograde amnesia. This disability makes them vulnerable, but above all it makes them doubt everything around them. They live taking notes, taking photos or recording videos that allow them to make the right decision. But even if they do, there is a doubt that cannot be dispelled, because whatever certainty they reach soon they forget it. They feel lost. They don’t know who they really are.
Is Sammy Jenkins the same person as Leo Shelby? Is he the murderer you are looking for? The fascinating thing about Christopher Nolan’s film is that through the montage he makes you feel like this, fitting together the pieces of a puzzle to try to find out what happened. And that is what we have tried to do with unmemory: immerse the user in the story, and once inside, push him to feel lost, to doubt everything, to keep looking for answers, to test his memory. In short, to ask yourself who he really is.
And we have tried to do it on the basis of a story of love and revenge, to which we have been adding layers. Thus, at first glance unmemory tells the story of a person desperately searching for the man who murdered his girlfriend, where the difficulty of locating the murderer is compounded by the fact that he suffers from a rare and intractable form of amnesia. The protagonist dives into his memories, reviews notes, photos and recorded messages, with the aim of solving the mystery. But that trip actually allows us to know the story of Debbie, Diane, Jamie, Kim and Little, the Killer Kittens, a group of artists framed within the culture jamming movement and media terrorism. Ingenious, intelligent, seductive, empowered … their artistic performances aim to expose the capitalist system and its powers and serve to explain their struggle for a more fair world. Changing the message of thousands of teddy bears, filling supermarket shelves with empty caviar cans, or organizing a treasure hunt with a loot stolen from corrupt rich people are examples of their art pranks whose true purpose is a reflection on excesses and injustices of a consumerist society.
This latter layer of the story, although it appears in unmemory, is further developed in Debbie’s personal diary, the Red Notebook that appears at the end of the first chapter and that contains the clues to open the debasers.
unmemory is set in the 90s. The decision was more natural than premeditated. It is the same era of movies like Mulholland Drive or Memento or series like Twin Peaks. But also the same era where cassette tapes, CDs and DVDs existed … many devices that we remember with some nostalgia today. Iconic assets that transports us to a few happy years (when we studied) and that was easy for us to collect at home to take photos of. In short, a place that we have lived and where we felt comfortable to set the story.
About the location, the truth is that we have never been very clear. Perhaps because the place does not have a determining weight in the story. Anyway, we started by locating the story somewhere undefined on the planet. A large, cosmopolitan city, close to the beach. It could be San Francisco or Barcelona. We wanted an environment where characters like the Killer Kittens, young artists who steal from powerful and corrupt fellows, made sense. But when we took it to the United States, everything was very cliché: the apartment, the motel, … That’s why we decided to bring it to Europe, to the Mediterranean. In this sense, Barcelona and its surroundings worked for us and we knew them. (Finally: fate brought production to London and that changed everything)
What is important is the more specific places. The apartment where Debbie is found dead, the house of the Killer Kittens where they party, the safe house (SKAGGS) that the band has in front of the Hotel Palace, Little Rabbit’s apartment or his tattoo studio. All had to reflect that world of young artists, bohemian but with money to spend.