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July 08, 2003

Memento

We recently watched a recording of Memento. This was the second time we had seen this great film, having previously seen in the theater.

This film has two very effective elements that are combined to wonderful effect. The first is that the protagonist is a man out for revenge for the murder of his wife who can’t form new memories. As a result he can remember anything that occurs to him over any significant length of time without making some record of it. His records include Polaroids, note, written records, and even tattoos.

The second important element is that the story is shown in reverse order. Thus the movie starts with the protagonist exacting revenge via murder, and then shows what lead up to the result. Now for the sake of clarity, the film doesn’t literally run in reverse, rather a scene occurs in the standard manner only to be followed by a scene that preceded the last one in chronological order.

The brilliance of this approach is that as audience members, we have no more information about facts in any given scene than Leonard, the protagonist. Only after seeing a scene is it revealed how Leonard acquired those facts that he used to make decisions. This highlights how a straightforward fact can be changed once one learns of the context surrounding it.

This structure allows one’s impression of Leonard to change several times as the movie progresses. Unless you are very adverse to violence in films, I highly recommend Memento. On my scale of 1-100, I rate it a 93.

For a complete list of my ratings go to Mike's Movie Ratings .

Posted by tmichael at July 8, 2003 11:28 PM