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Memento This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

Though many viewings are necessary to fully appreciate Christopher Nolan's Memento (2000), the film reinvigorates the neo-noir film genre through the unique concept of its story line, a defining element of the genre, and the depth of its main character. The film submerges the audience into the lonely and chaotic world of Lenny. Suffering from anterograde amnesia after surviving a violent attack that his wife did not, Lenny's unorthodox quest to avenge her becomes the focal theme of the film. Though the story is straightforward, the structure of the narrative and the unreliability of the narrator create a complex story that questions the verisimilitude of its circumstance.

The character of Lenny plays two roles in the film: one as the vengeful husband and the other as the narrator. The film blurs the line between the two in order so the audience can accept the effect Lenny's condition has on the narrative. As the vengeful husband, Lenny is guided by a set of values, part of his character's coherence, that affect his subsequent behavior in situations and the actions he is motivated to perform. Lenny attempts to honor the memory of his wife, but the audience learns Lenny has warped this memory in order to facilitate his quest for revenge. Though his body physically progresses the narrative through each new tattoo he adds, a road map for himself and the audience, the condition his injury has left him in stunts his inner character development. Despite learning something new about himself, Lenny is reset to his previous, and original, self every fifteen minutes. The amnesia, Lenny's defining feature, not only limits his character but the narrative itself.

Lenny's narration sympathizes the audience to his plight through the use of the voice-over while restricting their point of view through the limitations of his handicap. The voice-over represents Lenny's thoughts and functions as a bridge that connects the audience to Lenny's fragmented mind. As events unfold around him, the audience depends on his version of the truth. The scene where Lenny relates the tale of Sammy Jenkins, a subplot that holds important information concerning Leonard, stands out as what would appear a break from the action of the story line, but it is an example of Lenny manipulating the truth. This is where observation is vital to the audience in terms of interpreting information that has been relayed to Lenny and later passed to the audience by Lenny. In actuality, discrepancies where there should be similarities yield the truth.

Memento follows a non-linear narrative structure operating in reverse with the ending preceding the middle and beginning. The opening scene, played in slow motion, establishes this structure so that the audience can register the unconventionality of the film. The tight restrictions of the narrative, due to the mental limitations of the character, shortens scenes to a specific amount of time in order to create a claustrophobic atmosphere. The alternations between scenes in color and scenes in black and white serve the purpose of complicating and somewhat confusing the narrative. The colored scenes run backwards in time and the black and white scenes run forward causing a confused state of mind that mimics the chaotic world of Lenny's. Thus, the narrative structure is determined by the main character, his traits and development.



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Matt27 said...
Jul. 27, 2012 at 11:06 pm:
I've gotta say, this is one of my absolute favorite movies. I love how you described it so perfectly without giving away the ending. You hint at all the right things in all the right ways and it's great. Remember Sammy Jenkins.
 
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