The main reason I like Brainstorm so much is because it is similar to Westworld, Blade Runner, RoboCop, and Total Recall. The philosophical question of “What are memories” runs throughout all of these works. Yes, even RoboCop and Total Recall asks this question.
Unlike Blade Runner and Westworld, though, Brainstorm doesn’t ask the question of “Are my memories real?”. Instead it asks “Do my memories still belong to me if I record them?” and “Do I really die if my memories live on?”.
Memories are inherently subjective – they are artificial constructions of our past by our own mind. What actually happened in reality compared to our memories can be VERY different due to our own preconceived notions as well as the influence of others on our memories. If we frame our memories in certain, negative, ways, we can become cynical, self-pitying, depressed, and even destructive. This is explored by the Sybok character in Star Trek 5.
Sybok’s “pain” refers to our own, traumatic, memories. When Sybok says “Share your pain with me… and gain strength from the sharing.” what he is actually saying is “Let me into your memories, so I can help you reframe them – from negative to positive. Let me help you become a better person, to overcome your past”.
Memories speak to the core aspects of our lives. As children, we embrace change and growth, but as adults we become increasing shackled to our memories and begin to fear change – yet we resent those shackles. The shackles, though, are not part of Brainstorms plot, but they at the core of Westworld and Blade Runner.