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The Man with the 7 Second Memory (2005)




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19 September 2005 (UK)  »

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A depressing but fascinating film that is profoundly sad and profoundly unfair
11 October 2005 | by See all my reviews

Clive was once a famous conductor in the 1980's he was struck down with a virus that decimated his brain and left him unable to remember anything for longer than 7 or so seconds. At the time nobody knew that he would become the most severe case of amnesia ever recorded. Decades later he cannot hold a memory for any longer, the only person he recognises is his wife Deborah and the only remaining memory he has is his ability to play music. This film looks at his life now to see what has happened to him since.

When it was screened recently, this had enough of a curiosity value to make me watch but I don't think I was prepared for just how gutting and involving it was. The main obstacle the film struggles with is that nobody can really imagine what it must be like to be Clive – at night does it think it has always been night? Does he even know what caused him to be like this? The film gets past this really well and paints a picture of pain and love that is engaging and unbelievable. It is presented as a very basic TV documentary (despite a couple of far too clever by half shots) and thus gets up close to the subject but really they could have done three interviews and then just left the camera in Clive's room and it would still have been fascinating. The subject is so strong that it makes for great viewing even if there are no answers or hope to be had anywhere.

It would have been easy to make this a circus freak show but it manages to be respectful and even handed – a rare thing for an ITV reality programme! It is very moving, very unfair and, like Deborah says at one point, "it's just so sad". A fascinating film about a fascinating but depressing subject. I watched in disbelief and could only imagine the pain that one virus had caused Clive and his whole family for decades – it didn't help that the only thing I could take away from the film was that death would have bee infinitely preferable to this.

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