Nostalgia throughout Cashback (2006)

The theme of Nostalgia is present throughout the 2006 film Cashback. The film centers around the main character Ben Willis, who had been dealing with a tough break up. Ben cannot deal with the separation from his girlfriend and begins to suffer from insomnia. Throughout this entire time Ben states how he cannot help but think about the time he spent with his ex Suzie. The film displays how Ben is feeling by showing the break up multiple times, in slow motion, through Ben’s eyes and each time Ben is narrating with whatever he is thinking about the break up at the time.

In almost an ode to Frampton’s Nostalgia, at one point Ben takes out pictures of him and Suzie and imagines burning them in order to help deal with the break up. I interpreted Frampton’s Nostalgia as Framption saying goodbye to some of his most personal possessions from his life as a photographer and destroying them in order to begin his life as a filmmaker.  After becoming an insomniac it was even more difficult for Ben to let go of his past, he spent weeks on end working in a local supermarket in order to attempt to move on with his life and find ways to occupy some of the time that he now has. This attempt to change things was to no avail and Ben continued to be plagued by his break up. The film takes a turn when Ben learns he can stop time and move around freely. Thus Ben finds himself with even more time on his hands and he begins to draw the women that come into the supermarket he works in. At this point the film uses another flashback in order to display why Ben has decided to draw women in order to occupy his time. It shows when as a young boy Ben sees a naked woman for the first time and he describes it as  “the most beautiful thing he had ever seen” Ben eventually finds himself falling for a coworker and he begins to draw her. After beginning to meet with her things do not work out after his new love Sharon sees Ben’s ex try to make a move at him. In the end Ben is able to get his drawings of Sharon into a gallery and wins her back.

Similarly to Frampton entering a new world and letting go of his most personal possessions from his life as a photographer, Ben undergoes the same process of letting go of his feelings for his ex in order to be able to move his life forward. When the film begins Ben had been an unknown art student but by the end he had been able to get some of his work into a gallery. Ben letting go of the nostalgia of his past relationship was the catalyst for him moving his life forward and entering his new life in a potential relationship and as a known artist. The film shows how although most people view nostalgia as a positive, it can hold people back and be detrimental to people’s lives. Ben’s nostalgia makes Ben get stuck in his past life and does not allow him to sleep. This is evident in the film not only through flashbacks but also when Ben stops time it often occurs by the pattern of showing something going on at the time then Ben not moving and by the time the camera switches back the person is not moving often with a carton of milk or an orange suspended in the air. Although the process of beginning his new life took much more time, Ben’s transition from his life as a student to a professional is very similar to the transition Frampton displays in his film Nostalgia.

-Brandon Silver


One response to “Nostalgia throughout Cashback (2006)

  1. I loved Cashback! I was completely blown away by the cinematography and all of the great, long tracking shots-especially in the first half hour or so. Obviously, because the impetus for the story is Ben’s breakup, nostalgia factors into the story, but you are right to note that it is a very different form of nostalgia than Framton’s in that it is more centered on one event: the break up. It is unclear if any one event really cause the great shift in Frampton that led him to create “Nostalgia.” I found the scenes of Ben drawing women in the shopping isles to be some of the best shots in any movie I’ve ever scene. They were dreamlike, and also contained suggestions of nostalgia for other, earlier times when Ben felt able to express himself clearly through art. The way “Cashback” is able to acknowledge the beauty of the female body while still treating women as objects for Ben’s artistic stimulation is remarkable!

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