Table of contents

Total recall (2012)

A note on man’s love of adventure

In the near future, mankind will have desolated our planet through scientific means of conducting warfare. People carry on as if what had happened was inevitable. Indeed, policemen are not infrequently machines now. The metropolis needs science even more now that the survival of the species is a question rather than a foregone conclusion. The pinnacle of civilization is unfortunately riddled with slums & people living as they had for thousands of years.

Mankind has colonized Mars, but life is no more militarized than it is among us. Civil war is about to break out in the colony, but the population knows nothing of it. The police advertise it as terrorism. Our protagonist thinks about it as espionage & at the same time a greater life than the mediocre life which any of us can hope to live. The only principle, however, to which he can appeal is equality.

One of the things that emerges in this newer world is advertising recall: Remembering what never happened. People who sell this advertise their ability to manipulate your brain into thinking all your fantasies are fulfilled, so long as they’re not true. If you happen to have fulfilled your fantasies, what they do would not work. The police kill these people. Perhaps some desires are not supposed to be fulfilled.

Our protagonist not only turns out to be a real spy, not a fantasy, but he chases something he desires deeply. This causes him no longer to distinguish dreams from memories. In a way, all he has to do is be everything he has been. But remembering what sort of man he is cannot guarantee his victory. He has failed before, or already. The question of desire, like the question of espionage, is whether we can cancel time. Prophecy & self-knowledge both predict the future.

‘Welcome home, brother,’ is the first speech the rebels address to him when he finally encounters them. That puts together his desire for what he does not have & his love of equality. Perhaps fulfilling the requirements of justice earns you that speech, & what it means. The rebel leader discounts the past, which obsesses our protagonist, in favor of the heart. He is promptly killed. We learn that we know the past so that we can tell whether our plans succeed. Prudence is retrospective…

The problem he has with his woman is that the only thing they have in common is a wound. It is not clear whether he knows the woman is real because he sees she is afraid to die, because he no longer knows what death is. He sees her cry. That may have to do with hope or with anger at injustice.

An exciting action movie, beautiful people fighting for their lives.