The Lost Mariner (2014) is really fascinating, even if it was a real tragedy for the main character. This is a story about one of the many effects alcoholism can have on a person’s cognitive functions. In some cases, these consequences do not appear in the short term, but manifest themselves over time.
The main character of the Lost Mariner was a man named Jimmie G.. People who knew him said that he was intelligent, friendly, a good conversationalist and lively. At first glance, he didn’t seem to have any real quirks. He was usually calm and friendly.
However, he came to a nursing home with a curious note, which did not seem to suit him. This note described him as someone helpless, insane, confused and disoriented. So it was clear that he needed neurological treatment. Fortunately for him, Dr. Oliver Sacks (English link), a very sensitive and open man, there to take over.
A revealing consultation
The first consultation with Dr. Sacks was perfectly normal. Jimmie G. talked about his past with great pleasure and enthusiasm. He worked as a radio operator in the Navy and held a position as a deputy in their submarines. This was something that filled him with pride and gave him wonderful memories.
The main character of The Lost Mariner also knew a lot of information about his birthplace. He even offered to make a map and he expressed his love for this place. He also talked about his school, his love for mathematics and even remembered his phone numbers from his childhood.
What encouraged him most, however, was talking about his experiences in the navy. Among other things, he told Sacks about the missions he had once completed. In addition, he said he wanted to continue working there, but decided to go to university instead.
The neurologist noticed something very special about his way of telling stories from the past. When Jimmie talked about his childhood, he usually used the past tense. However, when he brought up about the Navy, he pretended it was still happening.
The Lost Mariner and Memory
When the neurologist noticed these oddities, he asked Jimmie, following his intuition, what the current year was. The patient, a little taken aback by the question, replied, “1945, of course.” And he added: “we won the war!” . Given this weird reaction, Dr. Sacks according to his age. Again, a little surprised, Jimmie replied that he was 19 years old, approaching 20.
So it was clear that Jimmie was confused. Then, on an instinctive impulse, the neurologist took a mirror and placed it in front of him. The man was supposed to see with his own eyes that his hair was white and his face wrinkled, meaning he was definitely not 19.
dr. Sacks was eager to confront his patient with this error, but the effect was surprising. Jimmie was shocked and didn’t acknowledge what he saw in the mirror. He thought it was a joke or a nightmare. He even wondered if he was going mad. For him, the image in the mirror in no way matched the image he had of himself.
A revealing fact
The neurologist understood his confusion and shifted the conversation to other topics. He simply made Jimmie forget about the mirror and the reflective image. Moments later, the neurologist left.
When he came back, Jimmie didn’t recognize him at all. It was as if he had never seen him in his life. That’s how Sacks got a sense of what was going on.
The Lost Mariner is a movie about a problem we call anterograde amnesia. This problem is characterized by the inability to store short-term memories. You remember everything that happened before the amnesia, but you can’t remember what happened five minutes ago. That’s what happened to Jimmy.
When he asked about his past, Oliver discovered that Jimmie had a habit of drinking a lot of alcohol for years. That damaged his brain and caused a problem known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
Someone who drinks alcohol excessively can develop this problem because alcohol alters metabolism and depletes stores of vitamin B1, meaning it eventually affects the central nervous system.
The Lost Mariner speaks not only of a neurological idiosyncrasy, but also of a human tragedy. Not having short-term memory means not having a life. Memory is a fundamental part of your identity and not being able to store memories keeps you in a limbo where time stands still.