“In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived had moved away into a representation.”
– Guy Debord
Unforgiven displays past and memory through various things. The first is of the character of Ruth’s younger sister, there is a faded clip of her sister running, shown at the side of Ruth’s head like a memory. The dying policeman is seen as a flashback and it is clear it is in the past because of the old style uniform and the floor of the house is dirty; like it used to be when it was a working farm. This is supposed to be an explanation for the ghost in the present day.
The flashback of the police photograph of Ruth is obviously old as it is a “mug-shot” and is black and white, it is used to connect different parts of the story; his realisation that Ruth is the woman who killed his father. The photograph of Ruth’s sister as a child is clearly old since it is taken on an old camera judging by the poor quality and it is creased and folded. This shows how close Ruth was and still is to her sister, since she kept the photograph with her for the years she was in prison.
Finally, there is a flashback to the events 15 years previous. This is obviously set in the past due to the old police car, Ruth having a different hair colour, the windows are old and dirty, the dead policeman is alive and the house is yet to be renovated. The purpose of this is for an explanation of what happened; especially because the whole three episodes are situated around these events.
Power is represented in both visible and invisible ways. The first is at the beginning of the first episode, a prison is a clear owner of power. The prison and the prison officer are extremely important in Ruth’s life, as they have been the controller of her for 15 years. However, Ruth is being signed out of prison, so she now has the power over her own life. The responsibility has been given to her. The signing of the release forms show the transfer of power. The car crash Ruth witnesses reminds her of the power she now has over her own life; and represents how strong this is; but it also shows the lack of power the girl involved in the crash now has; responsibility for the preservation of her life has now been given to the ambulance crew.
There is a strong emphasis on the power of the mind/imagination in that the woman believes supernatural things are happening in her home. This is shown by her eventually ending up sitting outside so as to not be alone in the house which shows how much her mind has controlled her. This is invisible power; although she voices her concerns, she has little or no control over her mind and physically she can do nothing. This is represented as an extremely powerful thing, as towards the end it is revealed it was simply in her mind (and slightly her son’s fault) and her imagination had built it up to be something it was not.
The unseen power of grief is represented also, as being strong in controlling someone’s course in life. The son’s whose father was murdered let grief take control of their lives. Instead of becoming what they wanted to be, their grief overtook them and did not allow them to reach their full potential. This is shown by the characters working in dead-end jobs.
Peer pressure and parental pressure is invisible but powerful. The character of Lucy feels outweighed by her course-mates and has a fear of letting her parents down. This pressure bears so much power on her that she attempts to take her own life.
The great power of memory is invisible, but achieves visible results. To begin with it is shown as keeping Lucy from her sister Ruth, as she has memories she just cannot reach within her mind. However, when these memories become clearer, they re-unite the two sisters. Lucy’s family also has the power to keep the sisters apart. They keep information from her and do not encourage these memories. But their power is over-ridden by Lucy’s powerful memories once they are unlocked.
Finally, Ruth has the powers of knowledge and strength. These are shown as immensely powerful because she has been able to keep the secret that Lucy pulled the trigger not her even, though it meant she went to prison. This power is so strong she does not ever reveal the truth. This can also be seen as a power of love, love for her sister.
The sense of past is similar to my object in that both share memories of family and childhood. Both share memories that can be unlocked. ‘Unforgiven’ is not connected to me of my life in terms of story, but it matters to me because I enjoyed watching it. The narrative structure appealed to me, in that there were different stories that linked together and it was all on the edge of something that happened in the past.
I think Debord is suggesting that in modern society we see everything in our lives as a spectacle. Once major things were considered spectacles, but now we see minute occurrences as major events when in actual fact on the grand scale of things they are simply insignificant. Now, things that have happened aren’t just regurgitated accounts of events, they are created in one’s mind as a representation of what happened; things omitted, things exaggerated; to become something more than they once were when telling someone else. Things that are created, especially within the media are there to impress and amaze. Nothing is original and everything has a sense of hyper reality.