Monday, November 30, 2009

"Memento" is a Backwards Film, literally.

As the film's title suggests, this film is about mementos. However, they're not necessarily the kind that are kept for sentimental reasons. They're kept to help jog a memory. Christopher Nolan directs Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss (of "The Matrix") and Joe Pantoliano (also of "The Matrix") in this psychological-thriller about a man suffering from short term memory loss. He uses Polaroid photos and tattoos himself with clues to help him solve the mystery of his wife's death.

Pearce is excellent in the role of Leonard, a man desperately seeking answers and clues in the brutal death of his wife. He meets many people along the way, each of them offering a different piece to the puzzle. He spends his days collecting the pieces of his puzzle, documenting them one at a time. When he wakes up the next morning, his mind is blank, and the only clues are inked on his skin and photographs of people and items. These clues all help him to find his wife's killer.

This was a very interesting film, although it took me awhile to get through it. This is not a movie that you can turn on and walk away from. If you get up and miss one scene, you'll be lost, because the next scene will build from the last. I made that mistake, twice, as a matter of fact. I finally was able to sit down and watch the whole film from start to finish. The filming style is excellent, using color for the present-day part of the film, and black and white for Leonard's past.
This combination helps the film's watcher to keep abreast of Leonard's background, and helps us to understand what he's doing and why he's doing it.

The film's director took the short story "Memento Mori" written by his brother Johnathan Nolan, and adapted it into the superbly written script. Nolan has also directed "Insomnia" another equally excellent dark thriller, and one of my personal favorites in the genre. More recently, Nolan directed "Batman Begins" from which the late Heath Ledger garnered the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award posthumously.

As I watched this film, I couldn't help but compare it to the 1994 Dana Carvey comedy "Clean Slate" in which Carvey plays a detective who also suffers from short term memory loss. He plays a detective who has to testify in court, but due to an accident, his memory only lasts for one day (as it is with Leonard in this film). Carvey must rely on a tape recording of himself every morning recounting the events of the previous day. It's almost unfair to compare these two films, but nonetheless, it's amazing how closely related the overall idea of the two story lines are.

Watching this film is like playing a game of dominos. If you take out one scene, or one tile, you risk toppling all the rest and end up having to start over again. My advice to my readers, however many of you there may be, is to go out and rent this film, but watch it when the kids are in bed and the ringer on the phone is turned off. If you miss one scene, or one moment, you'll have to start over. Words to live by.

1 comment:

  1. This film is in a class by itself and reminds me of 8 1/2 for which a remake is in the works.