The films of Christopher Nolan are exceptional. The Dark Knight is one of my favorite comic books films of all time. However my favorite Christopher Nolan film (and reaching pretty close to favorite movie) is Memento.
Memento is the story about a man with short term memory loss looking for his wifes killer. It really is as simple as that. Except that it isn’t.
This isn’t a typical revenge flick, as it begins with him shooting someone, and then the rest of the movie makes you question whether or not that shooting was justified.
What makes Memento unique is that the story is told entirely backwards. Now many films will often start with the end and then go back and explain how it got there, but this movie starts at the end and goes backwards.
The beginning of each scene is the end of the next scene, if that makes sense. We see life exactly as our main character sees it, not knowing what happened just seconds ago. Yet as the film goes on, we start learning more and more about how people take advantage of his condition.
There are many things that make Memento a brilliant film. The script, the acting, and of course the direction of Christopher Nolan. However, the most interesting part is the non linear narrative.
This storytelling format forces you to think, to remember what just happened, and what is about it happen. You know the future of this guy, but just like him, you don’t know the past.
His other films have certainly been interesting, but none of them have ever been this creative. Nolan’s films have always been thought provoking, yet this one fits together so perfectly.
Guy Pearce plays the main character of Leonard, and makes the character very sympathetic.
Leonard’s main trick to help him out with his memory loss is has tattoos all over his body giving him all the information he has so far about his wifes killer. He also uses polaroid pictures with important information written on them. It makes sense to him because as he puts it, people lie, pictures don’t.
People certainly do lie in this film. The one thing that makes it interesting is that people are often more honest about their intentions as they figure Leonard won’t remember it anyway. Which he doesn’t.
There is also a side story about Sammy Jenkins, another person with short term memory loss that Leonard met before the accident. It is in fact Jenkins who demonstrates the need for his photographs.
This film is a mystery story certainly, but a mystery where we are presented with the answer and then left to wonder what the question is.
Many critics often called it too clever for it’s own good, yet the movie holds up surprisingly well on examination.
Most of understanding the film has to do with understanding the information given at the end in order to explain the beginning. The real question becomes who can you trust? You have been given information the entire movie, just like Leonard, but also like Leonard you’re never quite sure whether or not it’s reliable information.
The whole movie is a puzzle, and you are just handed a bunch of random pieces and are expected to put it together yourself.
That’s what truly sets the movie apart. Many films have to hold your hand and carefully explain and spell out everything that is going on. While that’s certainly never been a staple of Nolan’s films, this film especially relies on the intelligence of it’s audience in order for the full impact of the story.
The film demands that you have an excellent memory, (making it ironic, considering the fate of it’s main character) in order to understand what is going on.
This film can be understood, it simply requires a great deal of concentration, focus, and attention to detail. And as I said, you are left to figure things out for yourself.
You are giving information and then forced to evaluate whether or not it was reliable information.
There’s multiple reasons that this film is one of my favorite films of all time (most of which I can’t discuss without giving too much away) But the strangely unique storytelling device by itself sets far apart from many other similar stories. I highly recommend it.
Mike Rauser is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]