Memento, a memorable film

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Christopher Nolan’s Memento features both scenes shot in color and those shot in black and white, representing two separate timelines.

To celebrate the last day of classes, a group of friends and I impulsively decided to watch Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000) well after midnight. After watching the film, we thought we might have trouble sleeping.

To be clear: Memento is not a horror film. It occasionally shows gruesome images, but they do not haunt the viewer as the film’s psychological themes do. From the very start, the viewer is confused: the first scene seems to be a conclusion rather than a beginning, and it prompts viewers to ask many questions. Soon, one realizes that this opening scene is part of a chain of moments presented in reverse chronological order. Meanwhile, another chain of scenes (filmed in black and white) interweaves with the first chain and plays in correct chronological order. After a certain point in the film, the viewer becomes accustomed to the rhythm of the film, and the eccentric narrative style is no longer so strange–but (I won’t go into spoiler territory) the film reveals that many scenes, based on the protagonist’s own faulty memory, are misleading, and the viewer is thrown into confusion once more.

There are many other themes at play here, which make this movie quite thought-provoking. But I struggled for a while to conclude whether the script’s strange timeline was an effective tool or just a gimmick. After all, none of the characters experience their lives backwards, so why make the audience experience the story in this way? Is it just to conceal something that happened earlier in the chronological timeline? It should be noted that the protagonist has a “condition” which prevents the formation of new memories, and I thought that Nolan’s seemingly contrived storytelling techniques were perhaps a way to simulate this experience for the audience. I’ll probably have to watch the film again to come to a solid conclusion, but maybe Memento wasn’t made to give its viewers peace of mind…

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