Saturday, March 06, 2010

567 - You Aught to Know - Memento - #2

Memento, Christopher Nolan, 2001, 62 points

If we're the sum of our experiences, what are we when we stop retaining them? At the core of Christopher Nolan's staggeringly brilliant Memento is the issue of man's identity, how the consequences of our actions build character based on how we remember them. Does amnesiac insurance man Leonard Shelby's revenge mean anything if he can't recall it? But just as importantly, what about his sins against others, or even himself? Leonard's search for his wife's killer also serves as a sly, melancholy allegory for man's own quest for identity in a hostile world. Nolan's script keeps this in mind as it subverts expectations with its diabolical chronology, adding up to a total that's exponentially greater than the sum of its quite impressive parts. - James Frazier

A crime/mystery story in which the main character struggles with amnesia. This is hardly an original idea, except the main character has anterograde amnesia, where the past is clear but new memories are impossible as he forgets everything he has just learned every few minutes, and can only barely function by taking brief notes and Polaroid photos and organizing them as intuitively as he can, which is hardly a good substitute for natural short term memory. We follow our antihero as he seeks out the man who murdered his wife, and struggles to forget pain of her loss. But every time he awakens he comes to realize once again, as though it were the first time he realized it, that his life as he knew it is gone forever. The director puts us into the mind of the antihero by chopping the whole film up into short segments and then editing the segments in reverse chronological order, exposing the audience to a completely new situation every few minutes as we see the events presently that led up to the scene we saw previously. In between each segment, in black and white, we see the main character Leonard describe what his life is like now and how he remembers it before, and we come to understand his situation, even more-so because while watching the in-between scenes we have had some time to forget the more colorful story-line of the film. But then these in-between segments segway into the events of the film, and those who were really paying attention realize the tragedy of his life. It is a truly unique and, dare I say, revolutionary film. - Ramin Honary

Next time on You Aught to Know: Those in the dark allow us to see the light.

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