Memento is a film that defies traditional storytelling, while usually, you would start from Once Upon a Time… and build up the story, Memento begins from the ending and deconstructs the plot.
Christopher Nolan directed this brilliant mystery psychological thriller movie in 2000, based on the story “Memento Mori” written by his brother Jonathan Nolan. Like other Nolan’s masterpieces, Memento is another thought-provoking sequence that leaves you on the edge of your seat.
Memento revolves around a man named Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), who used to be an insurance investigator. Now on a mission to find “John G” the man who sexually assaulted his wife and killed her. However, a major setback in this is that Leonard now suffers from anterograde amnesia; short-term memory loss. This makes him unable to form new memories and he can never remember where, what, or why he is at a place.
Nevertheless, Leonard is persistent, he leaves notes to himself, takes photographs, and tattoos information on his body to aid in remembering and achieving his goal.
Memento has a non-linear narration, as aforementioned it starts from the ending, and then after each scene viewers get to see the previous one. Slowly, the puzzle pieces start to connect and undoubtedly it does make the film feel way more complex to understand, but this narration technique serves a purpose. Nolan and editor (Dody Dorn) impeccably structure the narrative in a way that the audience doesn’t get lost but is left thrilled.
Viewers are put in Leonard’s shoes, and get a glimpse of how he feels when he doesn’t have any short-term memory. All the questions that rise in the character’s head also rise in the audience’s.
Wally Pfister is the cinematographer for Memento and helps portray the emotions of the film, visually through colors. Throughout the movie shades of blue are used, blue is known to represent sadness and truth. Wherever the scenes are shot in colors, Leonard discovers facts or something new. However, the scenes which are shot in black and white are subjective and opinionated.
Guy Pearce (Leonard Shelby)- Memento
Leonard Shelby, a man who cannot recall where he is or who he is talking to, gets used by many people, so learns to never trust anyone, anyone other than his handwriting, and the tattoos on his own body. After all, you can always trust your judgment, right?
The film revolves around lies, and how one can lie to oneself so much to completely change their perception of reality. Memento signifies how we all lie to ourselves on some level, for Leonard he just had the option to not remember his lies.
Memento is a thrilling film, that leaves you with questions every other minute of the backwards sequence. It is a story in which you feel as if you are in the main character’s place. It encapsulates the exact emotions the characters would be going through immaculately. If you are looking for a movie with a unique narration, that keeps you entertained throughout, Memento is the answer.