Unknown White Male (12A)

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

This conundrum of identity originated in 2002 when a thirtysomething English broker, Doug Bruce, woke up on the New York subway with no idea where he was and no memory of who he was. The Coney Island hospital he checked into simply registered him as "unknown white male". Medical examination would later reveal that Doug had succumbed to a rare "fugue state" amnesia whereby his episodic memory - of his life, work, loved ones - was completely wiped: in short, the person he had once been had vanished. His long-time friend, Rupert Murray, contacted him some months later to investigate what happened, and this documentary is the result. The mystery of his trauma deepens as we see Doug trying to reboot his whole cognitive system: he knows about geography, for instance, but doesn't know what snow is, or cricket, or fireworks. More disconcerting is the film's chronicle of reintroduction to his family and friends, whom he meets as if for the first time. He doesn't know them, and they can't locate the person he once was. At some point one wonders if this isn't an elaborate hoax by people who've watched Memento too many times. Can this really have happened? By the end you feel inclined to give the film-makers the benefit of the doubt. If Doug is faking then it's one of the best impersonations of bewilderment you've ever seen.

Comments