Shirl P. (busfaretokentucky) Reviewed on 10/23/2013...
Fascinating look at what happened to a man who lost his memory of his entire life prior to an accident. He no longer remembers family or friends and his personality has changed.
Bonus features are also very good.
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Fascinating Documentary about a Man with Psychogenic Amnesia
dooby | 10/30/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The cover-art, blurbs and reviews would make many people think this was a thriller. It is nothing of the sort. It is instead a very fine documentary about a person suffering from Psychogenic Amnesia (Dissociative Amnesia). It is an intriguing medical mystery and a take-off point for discussions on memory, identity and self. Doug Bruce awakes to find himself on the New York subway, not knowing what he is doing, where he is, or more importantly, who he is. He has absolutely no recall of anything up to that point. Bruce appears as a handsome, well-dressed, clean-cut man, who speaks with an English accent. He has no visible injuries and does not appear intoxicated or irrational. He goes to the police. They take him to the hospital, where blood-tests, toxicology-screens, CT and MRI scans reveal no organic reason for his memory loss. They place him in the psychiatric ward pending evaluation. A telephone number in his pocket enables them to contact someone who knows him and allows him to slowly piece together his life.
I find this fascinating from a purely clinical standpoint. Although amnesia is very common, Psychogenic Amnesia is not and Generalised Amnesia is very rare. This is where someone claims he cannot remember any past events in his life while the doctor is not able to pinpoint anything physically wrong with him. In Bruce's case he claims to be unable to recall anything in his life up to that point in the subway. He is however able to form new memories. His memory impairment although extensive, is also selective. Episodic memory (memory of past events) is entirely lost. However, some components of semantic memory (general knowledge) and procedural memory (skills) are still present. He knows general things like how to take public transport, how to go to the police if he needs help, how to sign his name (unfortunately an illegible scrawl), all parts of semantic and procedural memory. However, other components of semantic memory are apparently lost - when brought home to England, he doesn't know what is Buckingham Palace, the Changing of the Guards or Downing Street, things which he would be expected to know in his context. We also find out in the Extras that Bruce has not recovered any of his memories more than 2 years after the event. Usually in Psychogenic Amnesia one would expect some degree of recovery. Why did he lose his memory in the first place? Because of stress? Burnout? Some undisclosed psychological trauma? His sister alludes to the death of his mother but we are not told if this is the possible triggering factor. What treatment was he offered? Psychotherapy, hypnosis, medication? Did he refuse treatment by any chance, seeing how uninterested he was in finding more about himself? In the end, we are not given the answers. Of course, as in all psychogenic illnesses, one must always remain wary of the possibility of malingering or fraud which is mentioned in the film and discussed further in the Extras.
Apart from the medical aspect of the case, I liked the subsequent discussion on memory, the meaning of identity and the concept of self. What is a person, bereft of his memories, cut from all links to his past? Does it make him a different person? When he meets his old friends, he doesn't see any special reason why they should be friends. They are friends simply because of their shared history. Similarly his family members are strangers to him. What I particularly wanted to hear was a fuller assessment of his personality changes if any. His father says that he has become "more serious". His younger sister says that he is more openly emotional. But these could just be reactions to his situation and not actual changes in personality. Would someone's personality change if all his memories, all his life experiences were erased? Like some other viewers here, I wished the producers had explored this area more deeply. Still, this is a fascinating documentary which will intrigue most viewers whether you view it from a clinical, psychological, social or philosophical viewpoint.
The documentary is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (enhanced for widescreen TV). Picture quality is excellent with crisp images, rich vibrant colours and good black levels. Audio quality (DD 5.1) is very good for a documentary, with clear speech and good music reproduction. No subtitles are provided. The two longest Extras are the "Making of" and "Extended Interviews with Experts" featurettes at 10-minutes each. The rest all clock in at around 5-minutes apiece. Although I liked the "Extended Interviews," I found the rest of the Extras not particularly illuminating. The "Original Sand Dune sequence" was well done and worth watching. It's basically a beach scene with voiceovers of Bruce's friends and family talking about him and about memory in general. All in all, this is a fascinating documentary well worth watching."
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 06/20/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One day 3 years ago, Doug Bruce finds himself (whoever "himself" is at this point in the story) at the end of a subway ride to Coney Island without any memory of who he is, where he lives and how or when he got on the subway. A friend of Doug's talked to him the night before at 8pm and reports that Doug said he was staying in that night. But something happened to Doug between 8 pm and the end of that fateful subway ride the next day. In Doug's backpack there is a book about translating Spanish and between the pages of this book a phone number of someone named Eva. And so begins Doug Bruce's journey to reclaim his life. Doctors diagnose Doug as having retrograde amnesia. In other words, he could describe an ocean for you but could not describe how it feels to swim in one. The most touching scenes in the film are those dealing with Doug's family: can you imagine how it feels to look into your son's/brother's/nephew's eyes and realize that he doesn't recognize you? Has no idea who you are? Can't remember the Love that exists between the two of you? In fact, Doug has no idea what love is. "Unknown White Male" is fascinating, intelligent but ultimately sad. It disturbs. It forces us to think about things we'd rather not and as such "Unknown White Male" extends way, way beyond our comfort zone: something that very few movies have the wherewithal to attempt much less accomplish. "
Guy Pommares | Venezuela | 08/28/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This fellow lost his mind and it really makes you think. He asks professionals of the brain what it is that makes you be you. Is it the sum of your experiences, of which he recalls nothing; or is it your feelings and thought processes, which in his case seem largely untouched? The new Doug is actually more appealing than the original version. Why is that? If you just like action adventure, forget it. If you want to see a good film at home with your girlfriend (or boyfriend) and then have some really interesting discussions wih your friends, don't miss this opportunity; a steal at the price. Buy it, share it, and discuss it."
Unusual and thought-provoking.
a. | Upstate, NY | 09/18/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A man finds himself on a train with no knowledge of who he is, or even how he got on the train. His head hurts, but apparently he is not severely injured. He carries no wallet, so presumably he was mugged, although the movie does not address that. Fortunately for him, he has the phone number of a friend's mother with him, and the mother is compassionate enough to call her daughter and ask her to call him, to see if she knows him. Thus begins a very strange journey, as Doug is told who he is and must piece back together some kind of life.
It's very interesting to wonder who we would be if we had no past. Just plunk us down in the life of a man who was wealthy enough to retire at 30, and let us blossom. Doug returns to his study of photography, and attempts to normalize his life.
There are a lot of things to recommend this movie, although it is not spectacular -- it's a careful documentary made by the man's friend. It's thought-provoking in the extreme -- among those thoughts: what would have happened if he had not been wealthy? "