Toute la mémoire du monde (1956) – Alain Resnais short film on Memory that predicts our need for Big Data.

Alain Resnais had a lifetime obsession with time and memory, two of the great pillars of what makes us human. This film, made in 1956 and only twenty minutes long, is an excellent vignette in Resnais evocative and thrilling film making (he brings to perfect life why we get excited when we walk into a library) as well as a fascinating ode to memory and its documenting.

It will totally put a sparkle in your day if you have those twenty minutes to spare.

Resnais shows us that the collection, retention and safekeeping of Big Data is not a new thing. It is a technological inevitability that humans would have worked out how to document our every movement, through phones that photograph us, alert interested parties on our consumerist habits and constantly feed back our position in the world, history and the general scheme of all things. This is not technology gone mad, this is a natural occurrence when technology catches up to the human desire to legitimise through memory and cement our place in the world.

We live in The Record and we are made eternal in The Record. No wonder then, people are embracing the opportunity to be on The Record in ways that mystify and surprise civil libertarians.

She short film poses the question, who are we without the trappings of who we were? Memory, it seems is crucial to our perception of our self. By preserving as much as we can of those who have lived and passed, we satisfy our own fears that we will live on when we pass – just as they are. It also anticipates our desire to preserve cultural artifacts digitally, such as music, books and art. Perhaps those much argued over e-readers are more aesthetically inevitable (natural) than we give them credit for. Resnais even recognises data ‘ghosts’, statistical imprints of our culture, laws and the trappings of humanity recorded multiple times in various coded formats for us to dig up for various uses – despite, he also notes, the fact that almost all of it will never be used.

However, the thrilling and surprisingly poetic upbeat ending, implies that with the placing of all this data end to end, filling in all our known and to be known gaps in the flow of what is known and therefore remembered, the answer to all our mysteries can be solved. I tiny twenty minutes that helps to explain why Alain Resnais will be so desperately missed.

Thanks to CriterionCollection for uploading and distributing this beautiful film.