I’ve seen a handful of the films that Christopher Nolan has directed over the years: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Prestige (which has nothing to do with Batman). What they all have in common, besides Christian Bale (OK, it has a little bit to do with Batman), is that they are very good, and a bit more cerebral than the standard films of their genres. Memento, released in 2000, is one of his more critically acclaimed films, and a large part of that acclaim is that it is perhaps the most cerebral of his films. I didn’t catch the film when it first came out, and it somehow managed to elude me in the 12 years since as well; fortunately, though, I managed to elude spoilers of the film until I was finally able to see it for myself.
Memento stars Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby, a former insurance investigator with a couple of problems. The first, which provides the plot of the film, is that his wife was murdered and he was assaulted, and one of the killers is still on the loose. The second problem, which provides the gimmick of the film, is that the attack left him with a brain injury, resulting in a case of anterograde amnesia. He can remember events up to the incident as perfectly as he could before his injury, but he is left unable to form new memories. He can hold things in his memory as long as he focuses on it, but if he goes too long without writing it down, it’s forgotten forever. Every encounter is a new one to him, every event has him feeling as if he’s just woke up in media res, and every morning he wakes up to find
it is, once again, Groundhog Day he has no recollection of his recent past. He relies on Polaroids, notes to himself, and — for permanent clues and warnings — tattoos (some self-administered) to keep himself in the loop of his progress. Continue reading