Memento Film Analysis Christopher Nolan's Academy Award Research Paper
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Memento Film Analysis
Christopher Nolan's Academy Award nominated film Memento provided a new perspective on film noir and helped to redefine how a narrative was presented in cinema. Memento stars Guy Pierce as Leonard Shelby, Carrie-Anne Moss as Natalie, and Joe Pantoliano as Teddy/John Edward Gammell. Through Leonard's psyche, the film's narrative structure, and its mise-en-scene, Nolan is able to demonstrate the perpetual conflict that arises in the film between good and evil, fact and fiction, and instinct and knowledge.
Memento is the story of Leonard Shelby, a former insurance investigator, who is suffering from anterograde amnesia. In the film, Leonard is trying to find the person that raped and killed his wife, but has trouble retaining any information long enough for him to make any progress in his investigation. However, through a series of techniques designed to jog his memory, including tattoo, Polaroid pictures, and extensive note taking, Leonard is able to remember bits and pieces of what he has set out to do. One of the people that Leonard meets during the course of his investigation is Teddy, also known as John Edward Gammell, who comes off as a corrupt police officer and whom Leonard suspects of having raped and murdered his wife. Leonard also encounters a bartender named Natalie who purposely takes advantage of his amnesia and manipulates him into murdering her boyfriend, Dodd, by convincing Leonard that it was Dodd that murdered his wife (Memento).
One of the most interesting aspects of the film is a subplot that focuses on Sammy Jankis, a man that Leonard once investigated and who also suffered
from anterograde amnesia. Leonard continuously refers to Sammy throughout the film and uses him as a model for his own recovery. By observing Sammy, Leonard is able to come up with a series of techniques that he endlessly refers to in order to make a catalog of the information that he acquires day-to-day during his quest.
Memento integrates the classic film noir concept of interweaving concepts of good and evil (Borde & Chaumeton 12). In the film, these concepts are helped by the fact that Leonard's amnesia interferes with his ability to distinguish between what is fact and what is fiction, or who is good and who is evil. Because of this, Leonard relies on his constant note taking, but these notes prove to be unreliable because he cannot trust the information that others give him and thus Leonard is never quite sure what an individual's intentions are, especially when they intentionally take advantage of him for their own personal gains. This blurring of good and evil further solidifies Memento as film noir as the genre often intends to cause "the disappearance of psychological bearings or guideposts" (Naremore 19).
Many times, the characters in the film, especially Leonard, run the risk of losing themselves in the qualities that they initially were against, which may cause them to have a distorted view of themselves. This rings true with Leonard because he cannot trust his instincts or his memory and instead has to rely on notes and clues that may be fact or may be fiction. Because he cannot trust anyone, not even himself, he often does things that he does not approve of, yet finds…
Sources Used in Documents:
Borde, Raymond and Etienne Chaumeton. A Panorama of American Film Noir: 1941-1953.
Trans. Paul Hammond. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2002. Print.
Memento. Dir. Christopher Nolan. USA: Summit Entertainment, 2000. Hulu. 20 July 2012.
Naremore, James. "American Film Noir: The History of an Idea." Film Quarterly 49.2 (1995-
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