“The Final Cut” is the 2004 film directed and written by Omar Naim, starring Robin Williams, Mira Sorvino & James Caviezel.
Despite any negative reviews, I thought the film itself raised some important questions on memory, future implantation and overall morality. Here, I’m going to examine the movie through these concepts.
The movie takes place in a world almost identical to ours now, except that people can now pay to have their babies, at birth, implanted with a Zoe chip. These chips supposedly have no effect on the person physically or mentally, except that they record all memories and moments of the person’s life, so when they die, loved ones can view their memories visually and see the world through the eyes of the deceased.
While the film doesn’t get into the gritty details, it’s assumed that after a person dies, the chip is removed and sent to a “cutter.” Like movie editors, cutters sort through every ounce of memory footage, deleting what is unpleasant and compiling all the good memories together in a sort of slideshow for mourning loved ones. When the editing is complete, loved ones get together for a literal “viewing,” where they sit down and watch the person’s edited memories on screen. In the film, an edited memory is referred to as a “rememory.”
Alan Hakman (Williams) is a professional cutter who takes his work seriously. His reserved lifestyle is interrupted when Fletcher (Caviezel,) a former cutter, offers him $500,000 for the footage of a recently deceased employee of EYE Tech (the company that created the Zoe implant.) Hakman declines.
It’s later revealed to Hakman through the employee’s Zoe chip that the man was sexually abusing his daughter, and therefore Fletcher planned to use this as ammunition against EYE Tech and the Zoe implant. As a former cutter, Fletcher knows the moral implications involved in such a method, and now belongs to a sect of people who want it destroyed. When Fletcher offers Hakman the money, he questions his occupation, saying “You take people’s lives and make lies out of them.” Hakman ignores him, and claims he’s just doing his job.
While there are a few more existing plotlines, what is essential to all is whether or not the Zoe chip helps or harms. For example, Hakman’s girlfriend (Sorvino) breaks up with him in a rage when she discovers he found her through the footage of her deceased ex-boyfriend. In addition, Hakman experienced a traumatic childhood memory that haunts him, but when he realizes he too has a Zoe implant (that he wasn’t made aware of as his parent’s died when he was young,) he retraces the footage and discovers that his memory was wrong; his mind played tricks on him, and the memory wasn’t so traumatic after all.
In Hakman’s case, this closure of knowing what really happened in his childhood was so freeing that he no longer cared whether or not he was a cutter. In this sense, the memory footage, or rather the footage that recorded his life’s moments, was beneficial in being proof that something did or did not occur. Often in life, for reasons psychological or simply adaptable, we keep repressed memories that either were traumatic or happened too long ago for us to recall accurately.
Whether one considers this beneficial or not, the Zoe implant even records the first moment a baby is born, so even if the baby does not remember looking at his mother for the first time, the footage of this occurrence will be on his or her memory chip. Hakman frequently used this moment as the introduction to each rememory he performed, and as we see in the film, immediate family of the deceased was moved by the footage, wanting to remember their loved one as an innocent child. But this also raises the question of whether or not it’s ethical to plant a chip in an unknowing infant’s head, when obviously they have no choice in the matter. Supposedly as the person grows up, a parental figure will inform them of the chip, and as we see in the film, there are loopholes in getting your chip to turn off. But it seems that the actual removal of the chip cannot be done unless a person dies.
Even though a cutter is supposed to abide by a “code” which instructs them to display only good, pleasant memories to the deceased’s family, the cutter is still subjected to all the negative secrets, evil impulses and overall sins of the dead person. While one could argue that a person has nothing to hide when they’re dead, would you want your “footage,” all your private memories, to be seen by even one other person? Or would it be comforting that all your bad memories can be erased, and loved ones can remember you through only joyous moments?
And what about the deceased’s family and friends? Should they be spared any bad/evil memories of their loved one out of respect for the dead? Or should they remember the person for how she/he really lived? Even in good memories, should we be able to see through a person’s eyes, reliving their experiences, or is that only something God should be able to do?
One of the signs of the protestors in the film, (protesting against the Zoe implant,) read “Live for Today.” Would something like a memory implant prevent us from living moment to moment, or living “in the moment”? Many regard this theory as a key element in human happiness, because one isn’t focusing on the unchangeable past or the unwritten future. But if you had a chip in your head that was recording every single tedious moment of your existence, how would you live? Would you try to improve yourself and improve humanity by doing good deeds? And if so, would you only be doing these good deeds because “someone” was watching? Furthermore, if something like a chip can somehow dictate or persuade a person how to live their life, is this beneficial to society as a whole, and if so, at what expense to individuality?
This film very much reminded me of “Minority Report,” in which crimes can be seen before they’re committed. If a chip can be implanted to record someone’s memories, who’s to say that the information stored on the chip may become more valuable than the person’s life itself? For example, if a controversial crime occurred, and the police had suspects or witnesses not willing to cooperate, what would stop authority and the “people in power” from doing whatever possible to obtain this information? Furthermore, did EYE Tech invent this chip to record a person’s memories, or did they create it so people would be compliant in allowing an invasive, recording device inside their heads?
Perhaps my favorite moment of “The Final Cut” was the scene that portrayed footage from people with chip defects. Hakman explains that sometimes people don’t see what’s really there, but see what they want to see. In this footage, the inconceivable an impossible occurs, a beautiful montage that appears more like a dream than reality, even if it’s all in the person’s mind. In this way, even if we think we know a person, or how they think, or how they perceive, everyone’s individual “camera” is different, and no chip can prevent a person from using their imagination.
I urge you to share your thoughts.