H.M.

H.M. is a two-channel presentation of a single film based on the true story of an anonymous, memory-impaired man, the famous amnesiac known in scientific literature only as "Patient H.M." In 1953, when he was 27 years old, H.M. underwent experimental brain surgery intended to alleviate his epilepsy. The unintended result was a radical and persistent amnesia. Though he was no longer able to make lasting memories, his short-term recall, lasting about 20 seconds, remained intact. He lived anonymously in this condition for more than half a century until his death on December 2, 2008, in a Connecticut nursing home. His case is widely credited with revolutionizing our understanding of the organization of human memory.

 

H.M. consists of a single 16mm film that plays through two adjacent synchronized projectors with a 20 second delay between them, so the viewer sees two simultaneous side-by-side projections of two different parts of the same reel of film. The structure of the installation and the nature of the material together produce a sensation of mnemonic dissonance much like that experienced by Patient H.M.

 

The roughly 18-minute loop weaves together reenacted, documentary, found and animated elements and lies somewhere between an experimental documentary and an independent narrative film.

 

Several ancillary projects were produced in conjunction with H.M., including a series of letterpress prints, drawings, and photographs.

Cast (in order of appearance):

Patient H.M. – Darrell Sandeen

Suzanne Corkin / Female Voiceover – Herself

Chiel (Graduate Student) – Sashi Bommakanty

Robert (Graduate Student) – Jonathan Davidson

Male Voiceover – Justin Dray

H.M.’s hands – Jerry Reynolds

Stand-in for Prof. Corkin – Deborah Ishida

Background – Robin G. Durr, Deirdre Weston, Linda L. Sandeen,

Nanciann Horvath, Joseph Mosconi, Melissa Coleman Reed, Benjamin Tong, Louise Yount, Daniel Ingroff, Enid Barkan

 

Set Dresser: Megan Lindeman

Chief Lighting Technician: Mike Parry

Lighting Technician: Trish Herremans

Assistant Lighting Technician: Jeff Truman

First Assistant Camera: Justin Browne

Second Assistant Camera: John O’Connell

Key Grip: William M. Hewson

Grip: Joel Michalak

Sound Recordist: Reza Moosavi, Lee Ascher

Second Unit Camera: Caleb Johnson

Script Supervisor, Animations: Jamie Chan

Hair and Makeup: Robin Black for Frank Management

Still Photographer: Ian Brook, Suzanne Mejean

Wardrobe: Qadriyyah Shamsid-Deen

Key Production Assistant: Juan Carlos Rodriguez

Production Assistants: Josh Desure, Britt Ringer,

Margaret Haines, Rachal Bradley

Casting Assistance kindly provided by: Kris Nicolau, Skirts Casting

Legal Counsel kindly provided by: Susan Estrich

Character Research: Suzanne Corkin, Philip J. Hilts, Ross Pastel, Hillel Chiel

 

All dialogue adapted from transcribed experiments and interviews conducted with patient H.M. at MIT in 1977 and 1992. Portions of the male voiceover inspired by Philip J. Hilts’ Memory’s Ghost: The Nature of Memory and the Strange Tale of Mr. M. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

 

Filmed at Sets in the City, Santa Clarita, CA and locations in and around Hartford, CT and Mt. Desert Island, ME.

H.M., 2009

Original running time: 18:30 minutes
Excerpt: 1:48 minutes