Memento is presented as a puzzle, a heartbreak, and a brain tease, challenging viewers to explain what they have seen when the film is over.
Many people take their memories for granted. No one ever stops to think, what if this is the last thing I will ever remember? Memento makes its viewers think of all the memories they have made and what they would do if they couldn’t make any more.
Originally released in 2000, Memento was recently added to Netflix and follows Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) struggling to move on in his life after his wife was brutally raped and murdered. The man who killed his wife assaulted Leonard as well, and the lasting effect of that is a rare form of amnesia, which makes it impossible for him to remember what has happened to him in the immediate past: he has short-term memory loss. To compensate for his inability to make new memories, he keeps Polaroid photographs, notes, and tattoos notes on himself. All these small things act as reminders for his purpose to live. Leonard is obsessed with getting revenge on the man who ruined his life. Along the way he gets help from Natalie (Carrie-Ann Moss), a barmaid, and Teddy (Joe Pantoliano), someone who wants Leonard to trust him. Leonard, however, is very cautious about whom he trusts.
Christopher Nolan structured this film in a very non-linear fashion. We see the same scene several times, from various points of view.
This provides clarity, as well as confusion, about the events that are taking place in this complex piece of art. Which is exactly what the film is — art. Nolan has constructed this film in a way that we see how brilliant it really is. The mastery of the film is in the pattern of the scenes. If the colour scenes are given a letter, and the monochrome scenes are numbered, this is how the film progressed: 1, V, 2, U, 3, T, 4, S, 5, R, 6, Q … all the way to 20, C, 21, B, and finally 22/A. Scene 22 then becomes a loop and serves as the link between the forward progression of black-and-white scenes versus the backwardness of the colored ones, and therefore becomes scene A.
Even more astonishing is that Nolan presents this movie in such a way that the complexity doesn’t make it excruciating to watch.
All the actors perform in ways that hook the audience and don’t allow boredom at any given moment.
There is exceptional work on- and off-screen, especially from Pearce, but in the end this is Nolan’s masterpiece, and it was successfully delivered with a purpose: to make people think.
It took the cast and crew less than a month to film this, less than a month to make people question the very fiber of how the human mind works.
Everyone should watch Memento, because it really is wonderfully done, and the wonderful irony of the film is that this film will not soon be forgotten.