It's going to take a long time to digest this film. For me, the entire experience was thrown off by the woman in front of offering information on her colonoscopy to no one in particular. Shortly after that, Songbird, the short film from director John Thompson, put everyone in a disturbed mindset for viewing a truly disturbing feature. Songbird, a recitation on battered women's syndrome, featured the decaptitation of two animals, and eleicted gasps from several in the audience. Including yours truly who has a fairly iron stomach for that kind of thing.
And then we got to the main event. The Memory Thief is a captivating tale from director Gil Kofman about a dissaffected young toll booth worker whose past is a mystery. To fill in the gaps of his own lost history, and kill the pain of whatever it is that disturbs him – in a brilliant move of omission, the audience never finds out what – Lukas (Mark Webber) finds himself becoming more and more obsessed with the plight of Holocaust survivors. As we watch his haunting descent into madness, Lukas adopts the most painful identity he can find as his own to consequences that are as hard to watch as they are powerful and moving. Certain elements of the film seem a bit contrived, there are certain narrative neccessities – such as Lukas' introduction to Hitler's Mein Kampf, a text we're supposed to believe he's never heard of before – seem a little forced. But with a genius performance from Webber and deft editing from Curtiss Clayton, Kofman's obsession with obsession is one of the more affecting films I have ever seen. -- Sean Cronin