movie: Memento

September 12, 2010

Memento was released in 2000 and I’ve had the DVD on my shelf for at least two or three years, and known little about it.  I had heard that it was ‘told backwards’ and something about the main character having memory loss and taking Polaroids to remember things.  That is a useful description and gave me enough to go on to know that this wasn’t a movie to have on in the background but one which you need to actively pay attention to.

Memento is a psychological drama which opens with a killing.  Leonard, played by Guy Pearce (who really should be in bigger movies by now but still doesn’t seem to get big leads) has no way of forming any short term memories – so while talking to someone he may not remember how the conversation started, where he is or who he is talking to.  He has conditioned himself to look for clues when he wakes up or doesn’t know what he should be doing – the main clues being tattoos all over his body and Polaroids with notes written on them.

The intriguing ‘trick’ that the film maker uses is to show everything in backwards.  So after seeing a killing we see a scene leading up to the killing but we don’t know why that happened, then we see Leonard waking up that morning discovering his notes then meeting Teddy and asking him to drive somewhere – we already know that where they are going Leonard will kill Teddy, and so on until we find out why he is doing this and what led him to this point.

It is a fascinating way to unfold a story and keeps you guessing.  As well as the main narrative being shown in reverse order each one ends with how the previous one started, however between each of these narrative scenes which are in colour there is a portion of another scene in the film which is shown in black and white – we don’t know when this black and white section happens in the main narrative and every time we are shown the black and white section it is shown in the correct order (which is why I’m referring to it as one section rather than a number of scenes).  Really it is easier to watch this movie than explain it :-/

OK, enough already – I enjoyed this movie and will certainly go back to it, and am already watching the documentary extras.  It is extremely well written, filmed and made.