Reviewed by: Seth T. Hahne
|Featuring||Mark Junior Boone, Harriet Harris, Jorja Fox, Guy Pearce, Joe Pantoliano|
|Producer||Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd, Aaron Ryder, William Tyrer, Chris J. Ball|
|Distributor||Newmarket Film Group|
The infidelity of memory. Christopher Nolan’s sophomore film creation, the noirish “Memento”, bleeds a violent forgetfulness. And a painful ambiguity. And a bleak uncertainty. His amazing and abrupt study of mental corruption plays with the viewer’s expectations and leaves each one with a different understanding of “what really happened.”
Told in anything but common fashion, “Memento” begins with the scene with which, chronologically, it ought to have concluded. Then it proceeds in two convergent narrative lines (one from the present backward and the other from the past forward) elucidated in brief snippets mirroring the forgetful condition of the numbing tale’s protagonist.
Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce of “L.A. Confidential”) seeks to revenge his wife’s rape and murder. His life is pumped forward by this engagement, but he has a problem: a chronic forgetfulness. Due to a condition brought on by an injury sustained while attempting to thwart his wife’s assailants, he has no ability to create new memories. His memory works normally as regards to everything preceding the incident, but to his (and others’) great detriment, his memory for current and recent events lasts only so long as his attention span. Needless to say, this is not an ideal situation for someone attempting an investigation into a murder three years passed.
Leonard attempts to overcome his handicap by taking Polaroids of important people, places, and events, and writing helpful notes on their backsides, and by tattooing vital information onto his body. At first, this seems adequate to get him through life, but as the viewer soon realizes how woefully inadequate his methods are while seeing how other characters relate to him.
The film creates that same kind of tension that is found in all mysteries by allowing the audience only selected pieces of information at a time and only as the final scene ends does the viewer have an accurate portrait of what has really occurred. Or not. Nolan, by superb direction, turns what could have been a lackluster tale of vengeance (a la “Payback” or “The Patriot”) into something much more. While dealing handily with the pain of forgetfulness, “Memento” delves, at heart, into an exploration of how easy it can be to convince oneself of something other than reality simply because it’s more comfortable to believe the lie than the truth.
As far as the Christian audience is concerned, a high degree of caution is recommended. The violence can be grisly and the language is coarse. But over and beyond the overt, “Memento” presents a world of confusion and suffering that is bound to trouble more sensitive viewers. None of the characters inhabit a world that at all reflects a Christian morality.
All in all, “Memento” is an amazing film with fine acting and incredible direction that says a lot. But most Christians will have a difficult time sifting through the grime to find the treasures buried deep within. it’s not for all people. But neither were other fascinating-but-edgy films like “Fight Club,” “Pi,” “Citizen Kane”, or “Brazil”.