Get this: in Memento, Christopher Nolan tells his story backward! Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) witnessed the rape and murder of his wife but can’t seem to remember anything after that. The film begins at the end with Shelby killing a man named Teddy (Joe Pantoliano). Shelby pulls out a Polaroid camera and takes a picture, a record of the event that just transpired (some may remember this conceit from Tom Tykwer’s Winter Sleepers). Aside from taking Polaroid pictures, Shelby tattoos information to his body and writes notes on pieces of paper. If he fails to do any of this, he’ll never remember why and how he came to be at a certain place at any given time. Gimmicky, yes, but there is a method to Nolan’s shtick. By playing his narrative backward, Nolan forces us to play the part of the film’s protagonist. More importantly, though, Memento calls attention to the duplicitous nature of memory. As far as the audience is concerned, the man that Shelby kills in the film’s opening minutes must be his wife’s killer. But as Shelby’s begins to play itself out, the audience begins to suspect that even Shelby’s physical records of reality can’t be trusted. Perhaps most remarkable, though, is the notion that Shelby could go on living and reliving his life until the day he dies, creating and recreating false realities in the vain hope that one day he may just get it right.
- Christopher Nolan
- Christopher Nolan
- Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Mark Boone Junior, Stephen Tobolowsky, Harriet Sansom Harris
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