History and time are considered to be cultural formations since a History cannot be detached from the culture in which it is produced and received. It is through culture that a historical sense is achieved and in fact, each culture experiences History in a different way leading us to the current perception of History as not being one, but many histories depending on the cultural groups involved. Historians have fought throughout the centuries on whether such thing as “objective History” can exist but in the end, even materialist historians will admit that the reality of History is so complicated and contradictory that no single version could possibly represent the truth; consequently different interpretations are inevitable.
This is where Peter Greenaway comes in with his trilogy The Tulse Luper Suitcases in which the eponymous suitcases (of which there are 92) contain the collected memories of Tulse Luper, a manic collector of forgotten records and other evidence of the twentieth century. Devised as a trilogy, Peter Greenaway’s multimedia project concentrates on a period between 1928, the year in which the element uranium was discovered in Colorado, and 1989, the year when the Berlin wall came down and the Cold War came to an end. The two central events of the past one hundred years – the confrontation between East and West and the threat of atomic warfare – have left their mark on writer and realizer of projects Tulse Luper, who spends most of his time detained in some form of prison or another. Luper’s role is hard to define: his many encounters, the injuries he has sustained and fragments of sentences that surface from his memory, all combine to produce a complex weave or structure that includes both various periods in time as well as the conditions of production and the filming of the media project itself. The 92 suitcases are fixed points within this collage referring to a level of information behind the events portrayed. The second part of the film on which this paper will be mostly focusing, begins with the Second World War, during which Tulse Luper is being held in a country house, and the section ends in the middle of the Cold War. Each Part however, is divided into several episodes, playing on the idea that History is no more than a collection of narratives which give an account of past events and are one of the forms through which a culture understands itself and its past.
What is interesting about Greenaway's promising project, is the radical way in which he employs the four tyrannies of cinema (text, actors, camera and frame) in order to support that “there is no such thing as History, there are only historians” as he keeps reminding us throughout the trilogy. In fact, what he does is to employ “repetition” on several levels: intertextuality, bifurcation, divergences, multiplication and renewal in order to support the subjectivity oh History and its repetition. As he claims:
Borges said the world is a place of symmetries and...