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Film, Music, Memory$
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Berthold Hoeckner

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226649610

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226649894.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 28 September 2021

Panoramic Flashbacks

Panoramic Flashbacks

(p.123) Chapter Five Panoramic Flashbacks
Film, Music, Memory

Berthold Hoeckner

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 5's point of departure is accounts of total recall in near-death situations, which began to include terms like “flashback,” “replay,” and “slow motion” after the invention of film. The potential for dream and memory sequences in early cinema eventually spurred the convention of panoramic flashbacks where dead protagonists recount their life as homodiegetic narrators with directorial omniscience. The single case study of this chapter is Max Ophüls's Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948) focusing on the extensive role music came to play in the adaptation of Stefan Zweig’s novella for the screen. Its unusual story, told from beyond the grave, in a letter to an amnesic pianist (Stefan), gives rise to highly self-conscious cinema in which music itself is a vital medium of remembrance. Documentary evidence from the film’s production, including the shooting script and a copy of the score by Daniele Amfitheatrof, suggest that Ophüls created Lisa as a proxy of the director. Lisa’s hypertrophic memory not only allows her to recall every moment with Stefan cued by diegetic music playing during their encounters; but the music is also woven into the underscore to suggest that its mnemonic powers constitute an integral part of her narrative control.

Keywords:   Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), panoramic flashback, hypertrophic memory, homodiegetic narrator, amnesia, cinematic unconscious, Max Ophüls, Daniele Amfitheatrof

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