First Movie Memory
Wartime London. A bachelor flat. An unopened bottle of whisky sits on the side-table next to the telephone. The man—a recovering alcoholic—walks over to the window and opens the curtains. He doesn’t see the street, or the cloudy night sky: just the whisky bottle reflected like a bright lamp in the window. Suddenly he is standing by the bottle, which has now become the epicenter of the room. The man has a wooden leg.
All we hear now is a loud clock. The man starts to sweat, and he starts to shrink. A deep close-up of the innards of the clock—it looks like some robotic predator, breathing loudly, its mechanism emitting not one sound but several metronomic lines, intertwined in industrial counterpoint. Meanwhile, the clock is expanding to fill the frame, crowding the man to the edge.
Overlap dissolves of clock and man now coming harder and faster, the soundtrack swelling. The wallpaper, previously innocuous, is now replaced by neatly arranged patterns of black bottles. Next, with a thunderclap, the walls are transformed, every inch paneled with a phalanx of clocks, just clocks, in a deafening roar. The man is now on the brink of derangement. He looks up, and finds a giant monster in the room, standing as tall as the ceiling. It is the looming, lumbering whisky bottle. He stands stunned for a few seconds. Then, instead of being cowed by the bottle like you would expect him to be, he hobbles over to it and starts raining feeble blows on it with his fists. The bottle starts to tip in his direction, getting ready to crush him completely as it falls.
This is the first movie scene that I can remember from my childhood. For the longest time, I could recall just stark black-and-white images and clock-music, until I returned to it as an adult and filled in the details. It's from a beautiful thriller by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger called "The Small Back Room" (1948).
So, if you feel like reminiscing: The first film (or scene from a film) that you can remember?