Movie Musing: Record / Play – Don’t Fade Away

Record / Play

The start of the movie begins with a collection of audio tapes (remember those?!) with places and dates scrawled in handwriting on the side of each. We’re immediately drawn into the idea of a story, a chronicled personal history. It’s like an audio version of a photo album, demarked in chapters according to time and place.

A Sense of Time

Sometimes I think that the sense of sight makes us overlook our other senses. Sounds, tastes and smells can just as easily take us back to a moment and help us to relive it. Perhaps even more so than sight; we probably wouldn’t believe our eyes, whereas sounds and aromas can certainly lend credulity to a relived experience.

We see that a little here – listening to the voice we’re already reliving the event.

Action Replay – Shouting into the Past

I’m reminded of a few weeks ago when the world cup football was on. Unfortunately I needed to be somewhere else instead of in front of the TV when the Dutch match was scheduled, so I recorded it to view the following day.

Whilst I was watching it I was cheering for my team along with everyone else in the stadium. I think many supporters feel to some extent – or maybe even believe – that shouting “Come on!” from the stands will affect the outcome of the end result. Perhaps the moral (or even technical or emotional) support from live supporters might make this so, but I’d imagine a lot less so from a supporter such as myself behind a TV set – especially from a viewer one day in the future.

The main character here undergoes a similar experience but more vividly. Listening to the tape we see that he’s reliving the moment (it’s clear that the first time we see him listening to the tape is not his first time). We see tears, and the humans among us empathise in his pain.

Reliving the moment
Reliving the moment

Then thanks to a chip from NASA “relive” moves from mental to literal and the main character goes back to the time (and location) of the recording and becomes a part of history.

Expected Outcome?

Originally I thought that he was already part of history and hence it wasn’t able to be changed. Granted, we see subtle changes in how history is replayed, but essentially the final outcome is the same.

The question is – is this an expected outcome? I think there are 2 issues at play here.

Linear time

This is the simple case. The tape runs simply from the beginning to its end. Interestingly it can also be cut and spliced to omit or rearrange past events. In effect, history can be edited! (Anyone else thinking of 1984?) This should mean that anything is possible!

Splicing time
Splicing time

Perhaps it’s not so simple. We might be forgiven for thinking that whatever comes of the editing, time is still running in a linear fashion as it spools from one reel to another. But what if we have a tangled tape – would it be possible to twist the tape so that it plays in an infinite loop? (Think Mobius strip.) We saw the state of the tape when he pulled it out of his gun shot wound! ( 😉 )

Even in this case, history would repeat unchanged.

Thinking about time running on a tape reminds me of the movie Click with Adam Sandler where life could be forward winded with a remote control. In this sense there is an element of control (albeit limited).

The main character in our clip also tries to take control, but using external sources to affect history. Catching the tape player, taking a hammer. It’s not until he takes real control by addressing the tape player itself (like the remote control in Click) that we see a real difference.

I wondered what would happen if the tape was played out. Would history stop? And who recorded it the first time around anyway? These questions bring me onto the second point.

Multi-track time

At the beginning of the clip we see many tapes.

Eternalism with multi-track?
Eternalism with multi-track?

It may be true that these tapes are continuations from each other and that they act (i.e. should be played) in series. But let’s play with the idea that they may in fact be parallel. I’m justifying this supposition with the idea that if one is being played then all of the others aren’t being played at the same time.

The tapes now represent different time lines (as well as different locations), but we’re now free of the question of a fixed unchangeable history (i.e. the original recording) because by having alternative time lines we have no original. This is eternalism.

In eternalism where everything happens at the same time, we’re able to not so much travel in time, but choose which part of time to experience. And we can do that by selecting a given tape.

The Message

A record of time on a tape
A record of time on a tape

I really enjoyed this movie clip! I’m coming to realise that I’m quite a fan of eternalism because it’s all about the present and dispels the idea of history being set, or the future being mapped out. Record / Play gives the message that we can master our present. We don’t need to (re)play things out, but can take control. We can make new memories – we can hit “record”!

Love in eternalism
Love in eternalism!


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“Record / Play – Don’t Fade Away” was originally published as a guest post on 13 August 2019 on the now defunct time travel nexus.

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