There are films that cannot be better termed than as game-changers and films that disrupt the idea of film-making into a brave risk presenting a story in a way that is fresh, tense and new. These films rely on a solid script that crafts an electrifying tale, outlandish and ingenious, hypnotic and magic charm. The visual foretaste attains a distinctive method to bring a great cinematic experience and Memento is one such fare, marks the arrival of Christopher Nolan as one of the most prominent directors of this century. Memento is a neo-noir psychological thriller or revenge film genre went on to prove a streak away from the modern Hollywood films which is always about “money, hype and more money.”
This movie was made in 2000, based on the concept of a short story named “Memento Mori,” written by Nolan’s brother Jonathan, basically about a man with anterograde amnesia. This movie shook the world of cinema when it first released and was successful world over. Especially the fall of 2000 in US, it was shown for more than 15 weeks and remains one of the film industry’s most creatively told movies. This low budget film achieved a feat of writing, directing and performance into major inference, which was extremely spangled and complex order of clever and claimed intelligence and attention from its viewers. It stars Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Joe Pantoliano.
The story is told in a very contrary order, back and forth, reverse and chronological. The scenes are interposed during the film and a series in black-and-white that is shown chronologically and a series of color sequences, shown in reverse order (simulating in the audience the mental state of the protagonist, who suffers from a anterograde amnesia). The two sequences “meet” at the end of the film, producing one complete and cohesive narrative.
Recalling the story of Memento in reverse is quite an intricately intended module to uncover a deception of one man’s tirade to revenge his wife’s death. He suffers a rare form of amnesia which makes it difficult to remember his immediate past. In a story of revenge, the film challenges one of the deepest foundations of the thriller, namely the linear progression of suspense and completely inverts this idea, making us want to find out what happened before and allowing us to share in (Guy Pearce) Leonard Shelly’s puzzled state as he arrays in saying, “He killed my wife and took away my f*ckin memory. He destroyed my ability to live.”
Leonard Shelby, a wanderer dressed ambient best in suit suffers short term memory loss following from an injury he sustained during murder of his wife. He reminisce his life prior to the incident, such as being an insurance claims investigator. He manages to cope with his memory loss through dealing with a man named Sammy Jankis (Stephen Tobolowsky), a person he investigated professionally who also had short term memory issues.
The film sets the distinction between factual and emotional memory. Leonard talks about learning by routine, relying on facts to determine his actions and tattooing them onto his body. Emotional memory, the memory of how an event or moment felt, takes a back seat to cold rationality. His coping mechanisms are natural motor skills like mechanical movements of body coordination to place things, talk to people face to face to gauge their real intentions, take Polaroid pictures and write copious notes, and the most vital of those are his tattoos on his body so they become permanent. His single handed mission is to find his wife’s killer, who he believes is a man named John G, a name which is tattooed on his body.
Seemingly independent in his quest and almost hopeless way to solve a murder by those closest to him, meets Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Teddy (Joe Pantoliano). Each time of his meeting, Teddy and his Teddy, and his bartender/sex partner Natalie reveals his distance to the killer and they help him and he has no way of knowing — and neither do we for the same goal. This brings us on the final scene in which the timelines merge and we are left utterly baffled by what we have seen. Teddy’s line is the pivotal phrase in the film, capturing as it does both the film’s message about memory and the motivations of the various characters. In Teddy’s case, it is an indication of corruption, a desire to solve cases and create something certain even if the outcome isn’t true: as he says, “there’s plenty of ‘John G’s for us to find.”
For Leonard however reveals something darker. As an audience, the face of film is exposed with the possibility that the protagonist may in fact be a monster. Is the version being true or in which case his wife was murdered and Teddy gets what he deserves or Leonard killed her, and is now wandering the earth killing people to fit with his twisted version of events. Most chillingly, Nolan leaves it to us to choose, handling his material with more leaving us genuinely unnerved.
The character content here are very distinct, this could be called the bud from which the mighty oak of his film Inception grew. Besides their appealing similarities, as the central characters are prevailed and compelled by the memories. It’s also the same idea of creating new worlds from memories as a way of discovering the anonymous or an endeavor to escape beyond dimensions in any form or other. Inception is more successful and adventurous in conveying this concept, thou the groundwork for Cobb’s dreamscapes originate in Leonard’s decision-making and philosophy of that identity as we see is the collection of transient imprints instilled in one’s spectacular mind of the mind, highly contagious beyond ones horizon.
The construction of Christopher Nolan’s charmingly original second film is indomitably non-linear. The same sequences are seen from different viewpoints, alternatively clarifying and muddling perceptions. Oscar nominated Doddy Dorn’s editing is untouched beyond doubts and baffles of sorts’ sets the whole intrigue in motion again. Note how Dorn alternates flashes of his wife’s attack and even runs the opening scene in reverse. Striking it all is Nolan’s choice of anxious score, a constant echoing of ticking clocks and beating hearts, occasionally accompanied by Pearce’s nervy voiceover. The shifts from black-and-white to color are elevated by the stark cinematography of Wally Pfister indeed a crafty pictorial tone
Memento is also further proof of sustenance of film noir, showing just well how its techniques and archetypes have persevered and retained their relevance. Where previous neo-noir efforts like Blade Runner borrowed most from the genre’s visual poetry, Nolan takes the convention of the unreliable narrator to its most extreme conclusion. Possibly the biggest accomplishment by Nolan was the ability to make something so fresh from a subject matter that had been done to death ages ago. The memory loss idea looked out of date and been overplayed from a very long list from Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945); Alain Resnais‘s Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) to Last Year at Marienbad (1961) and to the way till The Bourne Identity; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; Men in Black; Total Recall; The Butterfly effect; Angel Eyes; Before i go to sleep; and so on
I continue to be astounded by how well Christopher Nolan has crafted such a brilliant film as Memento. The film preserves its cleverness and originality, proving that the reverse-order form he utilizes is no ploy but an effective element of telling this mystery. In fact, this technique is a massive success as many films since have tried and failed to copy it. Memento, undoubtedly crop the best Christopher Nolan films. A remarkable film by one of cinema’s most exceptional directors. By the way, the film’s influence has thumped apparently into the world of technology, as researchers recently set up an Internet time machine to study how our internet data are saved. Do you guess the name? Memento….
- Directed by Christopher Nolan
- Produced by Suzanne Todd and Jennifer Todd
- Screenplay by Christopher Nolan; Based on “Memento Mori” by Jonathan Nolan
- Cast: Guy Pearce; Carrie-Anne Moss & Joe Pantoliano
- Music by David Julian
- Cinematography: Wally Pfister
- Edited by Dody Dorn
- Production Companies: Summit Entertainment; Team Todd & I Remember Productions
- Distributed by New Market Media
- Release dates:Venice-5th September2000 & US-16th March 2001
- Run time of 113 minutes
- Country: United States
- Language: English