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Film Review: The Memory Thief (2007)

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A Los Angeles tollbooth clerk becomes obsessed with the Holocaust after meeting a survivor


Odd movies come in all forms and sizes. “The Memory Thief” was one that creeps up over the course of its progression. In its simple form, it centers on Lukas played by Mark Webber. Lukas works day to day as a toll booth operator which is as mundane and impersonal as anything he can imagine. As he narrates in his head, he finds the dismal day to day of seeing 1000’s who he’ll never really know or recognize a tedious and pointless profession. This is his day. He clocks in…does the time and clocks out. His home life is simple, ordinary and consists of returning to his 1 bedroom apartment and visiting his comatose mother at the hospital. We make certain assumptions along the way because that is how they are presented. Lukas though is one of those kinds of characters that is at a point in where all the nothingness is ready to turn over into something. That something comes by way of a tossed edition of Hitler’s Mein keuf which a rude passerby throws to him.

The book itself he finds interesting but it’s the affect that it has on one individual toll booth traveler that speaks to something inside him. He is given a video tape that is a testimonial of ones encounter in the days of the Nazi and the concentration camps. The testimonial proves to be inspiring enough that he finds a certain affinity with the sorrow of the Jews. This sorrow starts to become Markus’s obsession. So much that he begins to attend Jewish events and perceives himself as a Jew. This seems innocent enough though is a rather bizarre fascination that elevates as his interest elevates.

Before long, he lands a job at a Jewish testimonial video production agency in which he is assigned to transcribe several of the archival tapes. The effort becomes his newly assumed lifes-work and soon he is playing several tapes at once while consuming all the sadness as if its his own. During this, he encounters a nurse named Mina who is also Jewish. They strike up a friendship relationship that soon proves to be odd due to this overwhelming interest in her and her fathers heritage.  As it’s explained, Lukas has trouble remembering his own childhood so he feeds off the memories of others like it’s his own. His obsession with a Jewish filmmaker, a wall of Nazi and Jewish paraphernalia all prove to be more than he can handle as this obsession becomes instantly a self inflicted sort of madness.

Transformation sets in that starts with his mental capacity and then becomes physical to the point where his persona has radically changed and transformed. “The Memory Thief” is an amazing and compelling film that embodies the essence of a true cult film. It’s progression may echo traits of “Taxi-Driver” but because of the content it is definitely its own piece. Viewers may find some sections slow moving but also interesting enough to pull one in. Rachel Miner does an excellent job as Mira who plays a Jew herself. While she is meant more to be a supportive role, she brings a special flair that really helps to sculpt the motive of the piece. The movie is obviously directed at antisemitism and the hatred of Nazi style mind sets, though it does it as an after thought than a direct attack as in other films. The meaning I got from this was to promote the effects and tragedies of the Holocaust the right way while revealing some of the atrocities per narrative. The film was written and directed by Gil Kofman which also marks his debut contribution. Gil has a mind for great writing content in which we look forward to see what he does on future projects.

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