Virtualizing the real: sequelization and secondary memory in Steven Spielberg's artificial intelligence: A.I.

Jess-Cooke, C. (2006) Virtualizing the real: sequelization and secondary memory in Steven Spielberg's artificial intelligence: A.I. Screen, 47(3), pp. 347-365. (doi:10.1093/screen/hjl026)

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Abstract

This essay employs Steven Spielberg's Artificial Intelligence: A. I. to explore concepts of repetition and memory in post-millennial cinema in terms of Jacques Lacan's discussions of the Real. As a technological sequel of a deceased boy, the film's protagonist, an android child named David (Haley Joel Osment), arguably signals a prominent trend in contemporary cinema – sequelization – and is discussed here in the light of Spielberg's representations of memorialization according to the processes of secondary memory. By carefully examining the film's latent investments in psychic discourses, I explore Spielberg's presentation of a virtual subconscious and, accordingly, the depiction of David's psychological maturity from a machine to a ‘Real’ boy. The film's cinematography alerts us to this maturity, at the same time as it suggests David's virtual subconscious as both rooted in infantile desire and reflective of modes of memorialization and spectatorship in contemporary culture. I go on to examine the film's preoccupation with repetitions and re-enactments of the Holocaust, insofar as David as his kind are subjected to torture and extinction because they are not ‘real’. ‘History’, as one of the robots states, ‘repeats itself’. Focusing on the dilemma within the film to represent history, the essay ties together notions of sequelization and secondary memory by considering both as processes of recycled and culturally produced iterations of the past.

Item Type:Articles (Other)
Keywords:Film theory, Jacques Lacan, Steven Spielberg, Artificial Intelligence
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Jess-Cooke, Dr Carolyn
Authors: Jess-Cooke, C.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Journal Name:Screen
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:0036-9543
ISSN (Online):1460-2474
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