Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Cutting Edge Film Programme: Memento (2000)

Figure 1: Movie Poster [Still Image]
Memento (2000) is a psychological thriller and neo-noir film directed and written by Christopher Nolan. The film was inspired by his brother’s short story Memento Mori. The film revolves around the life of Leonard Shelby, an insurance investigator who struggles to overcome amnesia through the chaos of memory loss following a head injury he sustained after intervening on his wife's murder. This affected his standard way of living. To compensate his disability, he takes pictures of things with a Polaroid camera, annotating them and tattooing important facts on his body to constantly remind himself. Unfortunately, these notes still don't mean anything after he falls asleep.
Figure 2: Tattoo on Shelby's Body [Still Image]
He experiences flashbacks that help to reveal each little bit of the puzzle as his search to avenge his wife’s death continues. These flashbacks make the audience feel just as confused as he is. As numerous characters explain, there may be little point in seeking revenge as he would not remember it in order to provide closure for him. The narrative closely follows a phone call Shelby has in which he talks about Jankis, a former client of his, who he believed had the same condition. The film takes an unexpected twist as the two characters have a lot more in common than is initially put across. The essence of the concept questions the philosophical statement which was “Time heals all wounds” because in this film, Shelby has no sense of time. Despite this questionable concept, Nolan was able to heighten the suspense by keeping the story sharp and pacy, and is not afraid to layer in a little ultra-black humour. A review written by Total Film emphasise this point when they state It's the masterful execution of an almost-too-clever-for-its-own-good concept which really makes this the most delicious kind of food for the mind.” (Total Film, 2000)
Figure 2: Shelby Looking At His Chart [Still Image]
In addition to that, the unique non-linear narrative structure synchronizes perfectly to the character of Leonard Shelby. Shelby remembers things in short increments of time but still maintains his investigation of his wife’s murderer. The film is made so that the audience will be able to experience what Shelby is facing and how he see life- fragmented and out of order. However, through multiple story plots, restrictive narration, and many close-ups shots, the audience would be able to get the full story. This point is further stressed on when Perry highlights in his review The structure of Christopher Nolan's fascinatingly original second film is determinedly non-linear. The same sequences are seen from different viewpoints, alternatively clarifying and muddling perceptions. It is edited like a random pile of mosaic tiles, but when the last one has snaps into place, a surprise sets the whole intrigue in motion again.” (Perry, 2000)

As the film revolves around Leonard’s unique memory condition, his character must constantly take notice of small details and noting them down. The cinematography is essential to the story development, story unity, and establishing settings. Hence, important story elements are emphasized with the use of extreme close-ups shots. A key component that helps to drive the story forward is the Polaroids that Shelby constantly takes that consist of people, places, and things to help him remember. He will write small notes on the Polaroids with new information he gets to know of. Several Polaroids are more important to the story as a whole. This is mainly because of the notes he has on them, and when he added the note. A polaroid of Teddy Gammell is relatively more important than the rest as close-ups of Shelby adding three notes to the photo at three different parts of the story, demonstrates how significant that information is to the story. The distinctive use of depth of field close ups contributes to the psychological ride the audience take through Shelby and his quest for vengeance. 
Figure 4: Shelby Writing A Note On Teddy's Polaroid [Still Image]
Scott concludes the brilliant work of Nolan accurately when he states “Mr. Nolan demonstrates a supercharged cinematic intelligence. He's clearly excited by the way the medium can manipulate time and information, folding straightforward events and simple motives into möbius strips of paradox and indeterminacy." (Scott, 2001)

List of Illustrations:

Figure 1 Memento (2000) [Poster] at http://www.kinocinema.net/gimage/13d60b1925f413337824ed6278bcc93c.jpg(Accessed on 4 March 2014)

Figure 2 Tattoo on Shelby's Body (2000) [Still Image] at http://cdn.inkedmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/d4e8971593a6b426318bd5e0051dc673.jpg (Accessed on 4 March 2014)

Figure 3 Shelby Looking At His Chart (2000) [Still Image] at http://dinamico2.unibg.it/fa/imgs/mp-09.jpg (Accessed on 4 March 2014)

Figure 4 Shelby Writing A Note On Teddy's Polaroid (2000) [Still Image] at http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_MFEeDQOmK_g/SQ67nYh8FBI/AAAAAAAAAIg/AwYHjQcKyg4/s1600-h/writing+the+killer+caption.JPG (Accessed on 4 March 2014)

List of Bibliography:

Perry, George (2000) Memento (2000) At: http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2000/10/16/memento_2000_review.shtml (Accessed on 4 March 2014)

Scott, A.O (2001) Memento (2000) At: http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9E06E5DC173DF935A25750C0A9679C8B63 (Accessed on 4 March  2014)

Total Film (2000) Memento At: http://www.totalfilm.com/reviews/cinema/memento (Accessed on 4 March 2014)

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