The film that I chose to write about is Memento (2000) written and directed by Christopher Nolan. (IMDB). Memento is one of those rare intellectual powerhouse movies that make you think hard or at least try to figure out what really happened. In this film we watch as a man suffering from short-term memory loss uses notes and tattoos to hunt for the man he thinks killed his wife. The type of storytelling used in Memento can be very easily categorized as a non-linear narrative. A nonlinear narrative is a disjointed narrative or disrupted narrative.
It is a narrative technique where events are portrayed out of chronological order. It is often used to mimic the structure and recall of human memory, as it is in this film. The events are shown in both color and black and white. The colored scenes are in reverse chronological order and the black and white shots are in chronological order. There are two well-known actors/actresses in the film, Guy Pearce and Carrie Anne Moss. Guy Pearce’s character is Leonard. He works as an insurance investigator trying to figure out who raped and murdered his wife.
At the time of his wife’s death the murderer also struck Leonard on the head causing short-term memory loss. Throughout the film he uses notes and tattoos to hunt for the man that attacked them. Guy Pearce did fantastic job in the role because he had to be convincing in his role as a man with short-term memory loss. Throughout the movie he displayed paranoia and confusion due to this. In the beginning of the movie he displayed an aggressive personality and towards the end he was more subdued, which opposite of a movie that is typically shot chronologically.
Carrie Anne Moss’s character, Natalie, was sinister and she was able to portray her part almost effortlessly. I am not inferring that she is sinister by nature but that she was able to adapt her mannerisms and personality to fit that of the character she was playing in the movie. In the film Carrie Anne’s character, Natalie, worked as a barmaid. She could be described as having the characteristics of volatility, sympathy, and verbal abusiveness. In the area of cinematography both color sequencing and black-and-white sequencing techniques were used in the film. The colored scenes are in everse chronological order and the black and white shots are in chronological order. The flashbacks were in black and white to prompt the viewer to realize this was part of his memory of when his wife was murdered. The color images were very crisp, sharp and clear and the black and white scenes were bold and defined. The uses of shadowing and low-key lighting were used throughout the movie to bring intrigue and mystery to the viewers. The film’s cinematographer “Wally Pfister decorates the film in shades of blue and the photography is often visually arresting.
Blue is an essential element, consistently tied to Leonard’s perspectives on life. Blue is associated with cool, sadness and truth. In the story shot in color virtually every frame with Leonard in it has a tinge of blue, right down to Mr. Pearce’s blue eyes”. (Moore, 2010, “The mesmerizing masterpiece Memento”, para 10). The use of shadows in the black and white portions of the film brought emotion and a sharp sense of mystery into these scenes. This would not have been possible if simple, three-point lighting was used instead. This was well thought out by Pfister in my opinion.
This film was edited by Dody Dorn. What makes Memento special when it comes to editing is that it is cut in backwards fashion to fit the non-linear narrative. Ms. Dorn did an excellent job editing this film and I am sure it was quite a challenge, but a challenge she was up for. In my opinion this film is one of those types that either frustrates the viewer enough to throw up their hands in the middle of the movie and stop watching it because of the confusion or it keeps the attention of the more patient viewer to watch the entire movie to tie the whole plot together in the end.
The music in the movie was kept at low background sounds, never used to heighten suspense or to indicate a sense of romance, humor or tragedy. There were the typical sound effects of tire squealing, gunfire, doors slamming, knocking on doors, background conversations, etc. Voiceover was also used throughout the movie as well as periods of silence that intensifies the mystery and suspense of the scene. The style and directing in the film Memento has the films start at the end and works its way backward to the beginning of the plot; along with some black and white crosscut segments that provide subliminal clues to the film’s major plot points. De Lisi, 2001, “Memto” para. 3) Memento is of the Neo Noir film genre in which the hero was actually a bad guy and the femme fatale who was playing the main character seemed to get what she wanted. It could also be classified as a crime thriller, mystery or psychological thrillers.
One approach to analysis and interpretation used is the auteurist approach. Our textbook defines this approach as an “analysis that looks at a film as part of its director’s overall body of work instead of as a single entity. (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2011) This film is not one that all viewers may enjoy giving the fact that is in reverse chronological order. It is one of those films that you have to really pay attention to or you may get lost in the plot. I might recommend having your popcorn, soda and all necessary needs taken care of before the movie begins so you can be distraction free. Memento is a rare intellectual powerhouse movie that makes you think hard to reap the reward of a great movie when the full meaning of the plot comes to light at the very end of the film.