If you’ve ever found yourself addicted to any of those shoddily made but highly infatuating room escape games, you’ll probably enjoy the film Memento directed by Christopher Nolan in 2000. The premise of the story is a man with short time memory loss constantly trying to piece together this immediate past to figure out who killed his wife. To accentuate the backwardness of the protagonists life, the whole film is shown backwards – that is to say the scenes are in complete none chronological order. Certain scenes repeat and overlap allowing you to share in the non-conventionality of his life. A good way to put it is to say “Memento'' is like an existential crossword puzzle” (Scott 2001)
A consistently pale colour scheme, in a consistently mundane American small town (fig 1) , A plain wife and a rather satisfying collection of funny looking friends are the building blocks to Leonard’s life. A sleepy town that’s been partially woken up by Leonard’s condition goes to show the madness of the inner worlds that those of none sound mind create.
|(Fig 1) Inside the diner|
Phrases, clips, scenes and locations repeat, (fig 2) a never-ending cycle. We only see a small snippet of Leonard’s life, but we have no idea how long he’s been living like this. The repetition us in the audience see is similar to the conditioning he talks of throughout the film. We, the audience, are being conditioned to get used to Leonard’s life, just as he has. Each mini daylong episode resolves itself, but still begs more and more questions – “Nolan lets us bask in this revelation for all of a minute before unleashing another cosmic joke”(Klein, 2001). We feel happy to realise what is going on once more, but at the same time feel the same frustration Leonard must feel knowing it would be unnecessary if everything were just the right way round.
|(Fig 2) Leonard's Polaroids|
Memento is a great example of a film showing great complexities without trying to hard. Nolan gradually got more and more widely appreciated after this film, and rightfully so.
(Fig 1) Still from Memento at http://www.fact.co.uk/whats-on/neuro-cinema-presents-memento
(Fig 2) Collection of Polaroids from Memento at http://imgarcade.com/1/memento-polaroid/
A.O. Scott, (2001), Film Review; Backward Reel the Grisly Memories for The Guardian at http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9E06E5DC173DF935A25750C0A9679C8B63
A. Klein (2001), Everything you ever wanted to know about “Memento” at http://www.salon.com/2001/06/28/memento_analysis/