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Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley

September 17, 2013


What do we do every time we tell a story? We arrange in a particular way odds and ends we have stored in our memory, and while we are at it we (un)consciously fill the gaps and adjust some details to get the desired effect, some of the stories we tell we call them memories, oftentimes persons who have shared the same experiences have collected different memories of them and when such a thing happens some people can even fight to defend the “truth” of their memories, because memories are our way to define who we, and the people we know, are: I ignore if Luigi Pirandello was the first writer to explore the big deception of memory, but I doubt the existence of a more troubling work than Pirandello’s One, No one and One Hundred Thousand, the novel where the Italian dramatist explored the extent of the lies in the stories we tell and the necessity to keep these lies safe and sound in order to maintain our sanity. I am unaware of Sarah Polley‘s reading habits, considering she is the daughter of two stage actors I presume she could be familiar with some work of Pirandello, one way or another with Stories We Tell she has managed to tackle in an original and powerful way most of the issues in Pirandello’s novel.


Stories We Tell is the account of some stories from Polley’s family history – most of them regard her mother Diane, who died when Sarah was eleven – these stories come alive thanks to the voices of members of the Polley family and their friends, we see them to recollect their memories in front of Sarah’s camera and most of the time their voices are accompanied by an incredible amount of super 8 family films illustrating the moments of life they are remembering. The whole process is almost unbelievable that we can’t help but think “is this for real?” or “is she tricking us?” – ordinary questions I’d say, isn’t it what we think when someone tells us a peculiar story, nonetheless we usually trust the storyteller, we let him/her tell his/her tale and the storyteller in this documentary/film – Sarah Polley, family and freinds can speak, but the director is the authentic storyteller –  deserves to be trusted, and at the end of the screening we will realize that Polley has delivered a powerful (meta)narrative where fiction meets reality in an unprecedented cinematic way.

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