Memento: A College Student's Review
by Laura Cruz, University Freshman
The 2000 film Memento is directed by the incredible and mind-blowing Christopher Nolan. This thriller stars Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Joe Pantoliano who tell the story of a man who seeks revenge for his wife’s murder. However, the man suffers from short-term memory loss. Like most Christopher Nolan movies this film forces you to think and pay close attention. So much in this film works so well that I don’t know where to begin but I will try my best to talk about what I enjoyed about this movie.
From the very beginning, we know this is not gonna be an ordinary film. We are shown a reverse clip of Teddy’s murder. We see a Polaroid fading instead of being exposed which I think represents Lenny’s memory. This scene also reflects the reverse chronology of the entire film. What makes this movie so fascinating is this reverse chronology. We first see the outcome of a scene before we see how the character gets there. By showing us Teddy’s murder first, we assume that this is a "Romeo and Juliet" scenario where we know exactly how the film is going to end. However, we are proven wrong when the film creates an unconventional but incredible full circle and in theory, we start all over.
It’s hard to decipher the order or pattern of this film. As I kept watching I tried to figure out how Nolan could have kept track of the scenes. Showing effect and then the cause is as much of a pattern that I could see. It makes me wonder how he wrote this without making it look like random scenes. The editing and storyline is an incredibly bold choice to make. With storylines like these, we risk it falling flat and completely losing the audience. This is a technique Nolan has perfected throughout his career with movies like Inception, Interstellar, and The Prestige. These are movies that keep us thinking rather than just hypnotized by what we see on screen. However, I believe this allows the audience to form a connection with the character. The sequence of this story allows the audience to feel as he does, disoriented, relying on bits and pieces here and there, facts, to come to a conclusion. We reject all doubt of the evil he means to commit but instead root for Lenny because we feel that he is taken advantage of and is as confused as the audience is.
Another element that works amazing is being able to hear Lenny’s thoughts. This narration allows cohesiveness between the black and white scenes and the colored scenes. We are always listening to Lenny, we are convinced we can only trust in Lenny because of the lack of information, only to learn that the person we distrust from the beginning, Teddy, is the only person we should have trusted. What's amazing about this contrasting concept is the way they come together. Lenny takes a picture of Jimmy’s dead body and as it begins to show the shot turn from black and white to color. It is done so smoothly that at first it’s barely noticed and we realize that the two timelines have collided! Absolute genius!
Overall, I loved this film. Because we keep coming back to certain moments it can become repetitive to a certain extent, but it doesn’t take away from the genius of this film. I also would have liked to see clearly what happened between Lenny and his wife after the accident instead of inconclusive flashbacks, but that just adds to the signature mystery that Christopher Nolan plays with in his movies. He leaves the audience questioning what they just witness and most of the time requires a second watch to understand. This man has an incredible mind and a beautiful ability to make a relatively simple story into an intricate thriller.