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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Memento (2000) - A great movie

You might find this movie confusing in the beginning. After all, the movie, about a person with a medical condition in which his brain can store no new memories, runs in 2 alternating sequences. One of these sequences is in color, and the other in black and white. The color sequences, in reverse chronological order, depict his investigation into how he came to be into this condition that he is in as well as who killed his wife during a burglary; while the black and white sequence records his speaking with an anonymous phone caller in a hotel room. These 2 alternating sequences converge near the end of the movie into a color sequence.
Now, such a movie might sound confusing; but it is actually a great movie. It requires a great amount of thought and courage to make such a movie, and if done well, it can seem like a breath of fresh air from all the normal thrillers and romances that one sees. However, this same aspect of trying to tell the tale of the movie in the form of these 2 separate narratives can seem strange as well, and there are questions about whether the intention of the director was to actually propound the sequence method and be praised for this new effort, or did he actually feel that this method of telling the tale would actually be the best way ?

Memento (2000) - A great movie

Making such a movie means that the background of the story creation is also a bit different, and so it was in this case. The movie was directed by Christopher Nolan, and the story arose during a cross-country trip in July 1996 by the brothers Christopher and Jonathan Nolan. Jonathan narrated the story idea, and Christopher liked the idea; pretty soon (in a few months) they were discussing a draft and although the actual movie was different from the story by Jonathan in some aspects, key elements were maintained.
The movie was shot at a very fast clip, from the period of September 7 to October 8, 1999 (a 25 day shooting schedule). After hunting for actors from Brad Pitt onwards, they settled for a non-celebrity Guy Pierce for the main role. The other 2 actors were taken from the just-hit Matrix, Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano, and they were set to go.
There were some complications in filming since the script called for some of the scenes to flow in a reverse direction, and doing so for scenes where bullets and shell casings (that move at high speeds) were involved was tricky, doable, but more tricky.
The word "memento" means "remember" in Latin, and that is the crux of the movie. Here is this guy Leonard, who was injured on the head during a burglary, and now suffers from a condition known as 'anterograde amnesia', a condition that prevents his brain from forming new memories after the burglary. His wife was raped and killed during the burglary, and he wants his revenge on the killers (he killed one of them during the burglary, but was attacked by the second one and he now wants to hunt for the second one). But how do you do that if you can't remember anything for more than a few minutes, if you can't remember whether the person you met was a person you met earlier in the day or yesterday ?
How Leonard attempts to solve this problem is through a system of notes, a Polaroid 690 camera and the most important information to be tattooed on his body. In scenes, you will see his slight frame covered with tattoos (information), and that is a chilling reminder of the condition he is in.
How does the chronology of the movie work ? Well, there are alternating black and white, and color scenes showing different parts, and so:
When numbering the scenes chronologically, then sorting them how they appear in the film, the pattern becomes more clear. The letters A-V will represent the color scenes (with A happening chronologically first, and V chronologically last), and the numbers 1-22 represent the black and white scenes chronologically. The scenes appear in the film like this:
1, V, 2, U, 3, T, 4, S, 5, R, 6, Q...20, C, 21, B, 22/A
So the two types of scenes alternate. The black and white scenes (numbers) start from the very beginning soon after the injury, and work forward to the climax at 22/A, while the color scenes (letters) work backward from the climax at 22/A. The climax scene (22/A) changes to color halfway through, showing the convergence of the two interlain storylines. The order of the scenes creates confusion in the viewer, just as Leonard is confused, and the climax being in the middle of the chronological story causes a sense of intersection, one forward from the beginning, and one from the end backward.
Overall, this is a movie that grips you, forces you to remain hooked, and if you feel the need to watch a movie different from the others, then this is the movie for you.

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