The dead live on in our memory, or so the saying goes. And these days, our memories are increasingly shaped by the high-tech artifacts we leave behind; to a certain degree, the home videos and Web pages we produce have spared us the ancient task of holding on to the past through personal recollections and shared stories. Now imagine that, instead of, say, a nicely framed photo standing next to a casket, you could show a short film taken straight from the brain of the deceased. The actual sights and sounds that that person experienced, or at least a heavily edited version of them, would then be preserved forever, or for at least as long as anyone felt like watching them. You might even be tempted to claim that such films conferred a form of immortality on the dear departed.
This is the premise of The Final Cut, the latest in a series of intriguing, if flawed, films that explore where our technology might take us in the not-so-distant future. Robin Williams stars as a "cutter"—a person who edits the memories of the dead—named Alan Hakman, who has a reputation for his willingness to tackle the ugliest memory cases. Hakman believes he is responsible for the death of a boy he met when he was young, and he is so emotionally crippled by guilt that he does his penance, as it were, by willingly overseeing the memories of those whose lives were especially full of things to feel guilty about.
Like other recent sci-fi films, such as Code 46 and I, Robot, the film begins by setting out the laws under which its protagonists operate. Cutters themselves, we are told, are not allowed to have the memory-saving "Zoe implants," which are planted in some children before they are born; because they see the most intimate secrets of so ...1