How is this for a scenario? A man breaks into your house in the middle of the night. He kills your wife and leaves you with brain injuries. Furious, you pledge your life to track down and kill whoever is responsible. There is just one problem: after the head injury, you are no longer capable of creating new memories; everything before the accident is crystal clear, but now you cannot remember anything past several minutes.
Now chew on this: what happens to guilt if you cannot remember what you did? How can a person have emotions if he does not know where they came from? How can we learn from our experiences if we cannot remember them. What is the purpose of revenge if someone cannot recollect or prosper from it?
“Memento” wins this year’s prize for inducing the most audience participation. Not only is the film thought-provoking and unusually absorbing, but it also places us in the main character’s shoes. How can we be in the same mental status with the main character when he cannot remember anything? Writer/director Christopher Nolan has that answer: he tells the story backwards. We begin at the end and work our way towards the beginning. However, each individual scene plays running forward, often overlapping, providing us with clear, constructive transitions. The main character, Leonard, is confused in prospects of time and experience, and so are we.
Other characters include Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss, from “The Matrix”), who also lost someone close and can help Leonard, and Teddy (Joe Pantoliano, also from “The Matrix”), whose identity often shifts mysteriously. Then there is the series of flashbacks of Leonard’s experiences while working as an insurance agent. The situation involves an individual named Sammy, who has a memory disorder similar to Leonard’s. His diabetic spouse is not sure whether her husband is faking his condition or not. To prove it to herself she arranges a test I dare not reveal. Leonard is more intricately involved in this story than he even believes.
“Memento” is smart and imaginative. It doesn’t pass up little details of the characters. Leonard is constantly jotting himself notes and taking Polaroid pictures so his life can make some sense. He even gets permanent tattoos all over his body so he does not lose or forget some of the most important information.
In a movie like this, it would be almost impossible to make without leaving some information out; even some of the film’s actors were confused and requested a script told in sequence order. But these filmmakers have constructed a movie with a plot hole big enough to drive a semi through: If Leonard cannot remember anything after the accident, then how can he remember that he has a memory condition? There are no tattoos or notes to remind him, and whenever he meets someone he explains his condition thoroughly. This is necessary information he reveals, but there are better ways to do so. We could be there when his doctor explains the condition to him, or see his friends talking about it. The sky is the limit in a movie like this. It was not essential to leave such a massive, obvious hole in the plot.
“Memento” is still a unique mystery thriller. It is a tantalizing experience we do not often come across at the movies. For audiences who like to sit back and relax, this film is a waste of time. It requires us to follow along, participate, fit puzzle pieces together-“Memento” doesn’t provide any easy or obvious answers. All but the most intelligent and thoughtful kids will not be able to follow this film; it is intended for adult audiences. “Memento” is one of the year’s most challenging movies, not to be missed if you are looking for something clever and original.