Directed by: Eirini Konstantinidou
Written by: Eirini Konstantinidou and Robin King
Starring: Freya Berry, Robin King, Tim Seyfert, Tallulah Sheffield, Jamie Laird, Robert Milton Wallace, Dominic O’Flynn, Angela Peters, Anna Brook, Michael Buckster, Gary Cargill, Steve Hope Wynne
Reviewed by: Brad Williamson
Genre: Science-Fiction / Documentary
As a disclaimer, we were approached by the film’s publicity team to provide a fair and honest review of the film. Nothing in this review or score has been influenced by this, and we were offered no compensation for the review.
The first thing that strikes you when viewing Mnemophrenia is the structure of the story-telling. The only other movie that I can immediately think of that even closely resembles its structure is the Milla Jovovich film The Fourth Kind. It’s shot as if it were a documentary, and I even thought it was going to be a documentary for the first couple of minutes, but then as the plot unfolds, the documentary recedes and the drama appears. The second thing that strikes you is how well constructed it is.
The basis of Mnemophrenia is that as virtual reality develops and people spend more and more time within technological realities, new mental disorders will spread within our species. The film takes its title from the name of the proposed disorder that causes users of virtual reality to incorrectly remember their pasts.
As mnemophrenia spreads and becomes relatively common, the human species is divided into two distinct groups: mnemophrenics, those who don’t know real memories from virtual reality, and non-mnemophrenics, those who reject virtual reality due to its dangers, use it sparingly enough to avoid long-term effects, or who are simply not predisposed to mnemophrenia, an interesting idea in itself that sadly goes unexplored.
The plot transpires through the development of three main stories: one of the founders of a new generation of advanced virtual reality, a woman trying to cope with the emotional damage of discovering much of her past was never real, and a couple coming to terms with how only one of them is dying by recording their final weeks and months together with a brain implant.
While the idea of mnemophrenia is great, and the crew’s execution of Konstantinidou’s vision is smooth and creative, I think this film got in a bit over its head. I loved the science-fiction ideas throughout, and much of the film editing is top-notch; many of the scenes depicting how users might manipulate and view their own virtual reality systems are done well as any science-fiction movie I’ve seen. The writing is also intriguing and I was drawn in by the faux documentary structure.
But many of these same aspects are also why the film lags in places. While the writing is intriguing, at times it feels like that’s all the movie is. With the many jumps between stories and timelines, and development of the science-fiction themes, I feel like too much time is spent on dialogue involving more dramatic elements when I was more interested in the science-fiction aspects. In such a short film so packed with futuristic ideas and multiple storylines, there isn’t much time to focus on narrow issues. By focusing on these details anyway, I think the movie misses a lot of opportunities to explore further implications of mnemophrenia and what it means or might mean for society. These scenes aren’t bad, but as I watched the end of the film I kept thinking about how great the film’s core idea is and how little they actually explore it by the end of the movie. It felt like a well-written academic paper with a mind-blowing thesis and solid research with plenty of data, but no coherent conclusions. But even this type of paper, and movie, can be an entertaining and insightful experience.
Where it starts to fall apart, in my opinion, is the inconsistent acting. The direction, sets, and editing are all very solid, and the writing and characters are good, but a movie is only as good as its weakest actors and actresses. I feel like, overall, the acting is okay, but there are a few characters that I couldn’t stand. I truly believe the film should have focused on the storyline involving the creator of the virtual reality. Not only does this storyline include the most visually creative scenes and best actors and actresses, but the other two plots are where the film really drags. I was very intrigued by the idea of mnemophrenia, the business and personal ethics of creating virtual reality, and the differences between mnemophrenics and non-mnemophrenics and how friendships might exist between them, but the film consistently cuts away from these scenes to the other two plots and, ultimately, loses my interest. I wasn’t drawn in by the generational aspect of the three plots, I don’t believe it added much to the movie, and a more focused plot involving only the best actors, actresses, writing, film editing, and ideas would have made the film truly great.
Still, it’s a very thoughtful and well-made movie that sticks with you after you’ve watched it. Are the ideas better than the finished product? Yeah, possibly. Does it still convey those ideas in a powerful and creative manner? Yeah, definitely. In many ways this film reminds me of Ex Machina, a slow and methodical introspection on the future of society through the lens of science-fiction.