This is a short review of the film. Hirokazu Kore-eda has also directed narrative feature films such as Shoplifters, Nobody Knows, Our Little Sister and After Life. If you don’t want to read a review and just want to watch the movie, you can click here to do it.
Without Memory is a documentary made for television about a man in Japan named Hiroshi who, after medical abuse after surgery, developed Wernicke’s encephalopathy, a memory disorder. He still remembers himself, his family, his friends, and life before the operation, but finds it almost impossible to retain new memories, forgetting everything within hours of it happening.
Every day he wakes up confused and anxious, and doesn’t know why. Every day he relearns the details of the condition that afflicts him. The film follows her daily life, tells her about her reflections on her condition and documents her interactions with her family.
I found Without Memory to be incredibly moving. Hiroshi appears to be a very pleasant, intelligent and articulate man, gripped by anxiety and confusion about something that he cannot fully understand. Because he forgets, he has to learn his condition anew every day, which makes it impossible for him to accept what is happening to him, to lean on it and to move on.
He keeps a journal and constantly leaves himself notes. Photos and videos are being taken all the time, so Hiroshi can document his life and come back to it with his wife, Miwa. However, none of this works as usual, the notes and photographs have no context for Hiroshi. Usually when we look at a note or photograph, we remember the context it was written in or the time it was taken, but for Hiroshi that doesn’t happen.
Sometimes he will remember a particular emotion associated with a given photograph or talking with his wife about something they had done in the recent past, but often Hiroshi does not remember any image. On one occasion, he goes to the supermarket with his son, Taku. Taku carries the basket as it fills with fruit, chosen to meet the needs of a shopping list Hiroshi holds himself in his hand as they walk around the store. Taku complains that the basket is too heavy, so Hiroshi takes it from him. The couple then take quite a while to search for dried seaweed, and when they find it, Hiroshi spends some time thinking about which type he should buy.
Once home, Miwa asks what Hiroshi remembers about the exit. All he remembers are two weak feelings of emotion: the feeling that Taku shouldn’t be carrying something so heavy, and a feeling of indecision over which seawood to buy. He does not remember what was purchased without seeing the shopping list he used and does not recall any images of the outing. He tells us that often he cannot tell correctly when he is dreaming and when he is in reality. This confusing and anxious limbo is the arena in which Hiroshi now lives his life.
It is an incredibly difficult situation, but Hiroshi’s wife Miwa handles it all with the utmost patience, she never seems angry or annoyed by her husband’s memory issues, though it must be incredibly exhausting to manage. The strength and depth of his love for Hiroshi is evident. The couple will have the same conversations every day, with Miwa explaining to Hiroshi the nature of his condition, asking about his day, what he remembers, how well he remembers it.
There is still laughter in the house and love, as Miwa, Hiroshi and their children try to adjust to life in the face of this rare disease. Without Memory also contains interviews with doctors and information on the medical science of the disease, but I found these segments much less interesting than Hiroshi himself and his family life.
The film contains many themes that will appear throughout Kore-eda’s future work. Memory, loss, acceptance, family, and a system of government that fails to meet the social demands of its most needy citizens are characteristics that appear differently in many feature films that followed Without Memory.
Sans Memory is emotionally moving and touching, powerfully human, I would recommend him to all fans of documentaries, Kore-eda or human stories in general.
This review is published with some images here: https://filmpositivity.com/2021/02/12/hirokazu-koreeda-without-memory/
If you watch the video on YouTube, you might notice that Miwa appears to be active in the comments. She seems to be a really lovely person!