Memory, like consciousness, eludes analysis. Nobel Prize–winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel, the subject of this subtly layered documentary by Petra Seeger, took the approach of reductionism to figure it out.
He studied neurons extracted from a snail to learn how the memory process operates on the cellular level; magnified thousands of times by an electron microscope and shown on a video screen, the phenomenon has a breathtaking abstract beauty. But how to make the leap from this building block to the complexity of Kandel’s own memories as he and his wife tour Paris and Vienna, the cities from which they barely escaped seven decades earlier, during the Holocaust?
Seeger deftly interweaves the ironies, the paradoxes, and the deeper implications of her subject, but the irrepressible Kandel steals the show. In the beginning, by way of an example, he points out that if viewers remember this film, it will alter the structure of their brains. I’ll vouch for that.