Memento is the 2000 thriller by the master of modern filmmaking, Christopher Nolan based on a short story “memento mori” written by his brother Jonathan Nolan. Structurally this film is considered as a filmmaker’s classic as it has the peculiar non-linear structure where two sequences go forward and backward parallelly and at the end, it joins at a specific slot leading to a powerful twist. The movie is about Leonard “Lenny” Shelby (Guy Pearce) seeking revenge against an individual who broke into his house and murdered his wife. As his wife was being killed, a blow to his head caused severe brain damage and he acquired a condition termed as “short term amnesia” where he forgets everything after 15 minutes and is unable to make new memories. He tries to keep up by making notes, tattooing necessary details and taking pictures with the help of his polaroid camera with captions. He is assisted by Teddy (Joe Pantoliano), a cop who seemingly cares for his quest and he meets Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss) who helps him further.

Before watching this film know this, you will be needing two things; a clearcut mind and ample amount of patience. This is no super-hero film that you watch with discussions and applauding. It requires your attention till the film is over and if you watching on a medium where you could fast-backward/forward, it may help in the understanding process better. A black and white sequence shown goes forward while the coloured goes back and these two interconnect making a perfect parallel montage. When analysed closely, these two sequences do share a connection but they need to be subjected to individual importance. The black and white sequence shows his over-the-phone conversation with an unknown caller where he narrates his condition with the help of an example, i.e. story of a guy named Sammy Jenkins who had the same condition. The coloured version shows his quest for revenge where at the beginning he seemingly killed his wife’s murderer, Teddy himself. You might wonder “ok, he took the revenge. The perpetrator is dead. What are we looking for?“. For the sake of entertainment value, I am not revealing anything more here but the final twist will leave you open mouth and that is what the movie is about, not just a tale of revenge but about how much one’s actions could mark as a serious stroke in several lives. Personally, that is what I loved about this movie.



The real hero of this film is Dody Dorin, the editor. She did a fantastic job in compiling images followed by Nolan’s intriguing imagination and David Julian’s music which lures you into Shelby’s world with just the one instrument that keeps playing in your head after you listened to it. The editing is done such that each clip begins with an interesting scenario which captures our interest which a proper explanation. Dorin received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her work. Christopher deserved an Oscar for best direction. He introduced a whole new vortex with the minimum settings he made with the available budget. The story is simple, what takes the cake is the visuals that ably made the impact. The movie is dark, steadfast with dry humor and intense action scenes that are not exaggerated. Multiple viewing is required to understand it better and you might end up referring a lot of websites as well. Christopher Nolan himself never revealed a proper explanation and there is enough scope for deeper analysis as far as the story is concerned. Guy Pearce delivered a controlled performance in his role. The scenes where the memories run out are done brilliantly and we see the confusion and frustration in his eyes. His vocal performance is adept and fits the narratives. Carrie-Anne Moss managed to have the gangster look to become a mysterious figure with apt expressions and compare to her image in matrix films, she has improved a lot. My favorite performance is from Joe Pantoliano whose hilarity and dialogue delivery makes Teddy who he is, notably the way he says “Lenny!”.  This movie inspired Indian film “Ghajini”. I wouldn’t have come across this film if it wasn’t for the Ghajini. Thanks Ghajini! 😛

What memento needs is an active-minded analysis where the plot gets more and more intriguing with each fan-theory. I have read many theories that prompted me to watch it again.


Featured image: wallapers.

One thought on “Memento review: A Brilliant Filmmaker's Classic

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