Leonard Shelby is tracking down the man who raped and murdered his wife. The difficulty of locating his wife's killer, however, is compounded by the fact that he suffers from a rare, untreatable form of short-term memory loss. Although he can recall details of life before his accident, Leonard cannot remember what happened fifteen minutes ago, where he's going, or why.
- During Teddy's line "You don't have a clue, you freak!", director Christopher Nolan felt that Joe Pantoliano (Teddy) did not quite nail the end of the line, so he decided to re-record the last two words to his liking, delivering them himself. Therefore, in the final film, the words, "you freak", as we hear them, are actually being said not by Pantoliano, but by Nolan impersonating Pantoliano's voice. Pantoliano was unaware of the dubbing until an interview for Anatomy of a Scene: Memento (2001).
- EASTER EGG: The Limited Edition DVD (and the standard Region 2 edition) allows the movie to be watched in the exact chronological order of the events in the film. The first couple of scenes of the regular cut of the movie appear normal in this version, meaning they are not reversed. However, this version of the movie on Disc 2 is quite difficult to reach (the user must answer several questions and solve a puzzle), and forward, reverse, and chapter skip capabilities are disabled.
- The medical condition experienced by Leonard in this film is a real condition called anterograde amnesia, the inability to form new memories after damage to the hippocampus. During the 1950s, doctors treated some forms of epilepsy by removing parts of the temporal lobe, resulting in the same memory problems.
- The film took twenty-five days to shoot.
- Stephen Tobolowsky has stated that during his audition for Sammy, he had mentioned to Christopher Nolan that he had experienced amnesia personally. A few years earlier, he was given an experimental pain killer that induced amnesia for a surgery he had undergone. Tobolowsky said it may have helped him get the part, because no other actor would likely have had his first-hand experience.
- Christopher Nolan's screenplay was based on his brother Jonathan Nolan's story "Memento Mori." However, the screenplay is still considered original (rather than adapted), because Jonathan's story wasn't published until after the film was completed.
- After being impressed by Carrie-Anne Moss' performance as Trinity in The Matrix (1999), Jennifer Todd suggested her for the part of Natalie. While Mary McCormack lobbied for the role, Christopher Nolan decided to cast Moss as Natalie, saying, "She added an enormous amount to the role of Natalie that wasn't on the page."
- The film's subject matter was conceived of when Christopher Nolan was joined by his brother Jonathan on a late summer cross-country road trip, as Christopher was moving to Los Angeles and Jonathan had time before returning to his studies at Georgetown to spend time with his brother and help with with the move. By the time they arrived in L.A., the entire screenplay had been stated out loud between the brothers.
- Carrie-Anne Moss personally recommended Joe Pantoliano for the role of Teddy, having become good friends with him while they were working on "The Matrix". Christopher Nolan and his producers had reservations about this because they weren't sure Pantoliano's screen persona (often overtly villainous) was the right match for Teddy, but they met with him and decided his talent made him the right person for the part. Nolan later praised Pantoliano for having brought the right amount of subtlety to his performance as Teddy.
- According to Christopher Nolan, Carrie-Anne Moss shot her whole part for the film in eight days.
- Many of Leonard's unique voiceovers were improvised by Guy Pearce.
- "Paranoid Android" by Radiohead was originally going to be used in the closing credits, but Christopher Nolan decided that the royalties needed to use this song (owned by Capitol Records) would be too great for this low-budget film.
- The tattoo parlor in the movie is named after Emma Thomas, who is Christopher Nolan's wife, and the movie's associate producer.
- Guy Pearce was originally two hundred thirty pounds (104.3 kilograms) before the movie was made, and lost all of the weight within a few months.
- Aaron Eckhart, Brad Pitt, Charlie Sheen, and Thomas Jane were considered for the role of Leonard, before Guy Pearce got the part. Christopher Nolan would later work with Eckhart on The Dark Knight (2008).
- Memento was considered "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant by the US Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2017. It is the Christopher Nolan's first movie to be preserved in National Film Registry. It was also the first non documentary film from the 2000's to be preserved.
- This movie marks the first in a long-time collaboration between Christopher Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister. They would make six more movies together, before Pfister became a director.
- Droste Effect on the main poster of the movie is a reference to Doodlebug (1997), another movie by Christopher Nolan.
- After Brad Pitt expressed interest in signing up to play Leonard but ultimately had to pass on the project due to other commitments, Christopher Nolan did not consider any other "A-list actors" because he realized that having a talented but lesser-known lead actor would allow for the film's budget to be more evenly distributed. That process led to Nolan nearly casting Aaron Eckhart in the role, and eventually giving the part to Guy Pearce. Nolan would go on to work with Eckhart a few years later in The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan's first choice for the role of Leonard was Alec Baldwin.
- (At around fifty-five minutes) The book that Leonard's wife is reading, which begins, "Two years have gone by since I finished the long story.", is Claudius the God by Robert Graves.
- Christopher Nolan's white Honda Civic can be seen parked next to Leonard Shelby's (Guy Pearce's) Jaguar at the motel.
- Ashley Judd, Famke Janssen, and Angelina Jolie were considered for the role of Natalie.
- The movie was filmed in Southern California, in and around the Sunland and Tujunga area. Other driving scenes were filmed in Burbank, on Victory Boulevard.
- As of 2018, this film and his debut Following (1998) are the only films Christopher Nolan has made that weren't produced by Warner Bros.
- When translating from Latin to English, "Memento" translates to "Remember".
- In one scene, Leonard quickly passes in front of a comic book store. The Batman emblem is displayed prominently on the store's window. Christopher Nolan later directed Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). There is also a Superman emblem in the same store window; Nolan was producer of Man of Steel (2013) and is executive producer of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016).
Memento is the first big film from filmmaker Christopher Nolan. "[The] difference between shooting Following with a group of friends wearing our own clothes and my mum making sandwiches to spending $4 million of somebody else's money on Memento and having a crew of a hundred people is, to this day, by far the biggest leap I've ever made", said the director.
The idea of Memento came during a road trip from Chicago to the West Coast, as Christopher Nolan was moving. He was traveling with his brother Jonathan, who pitched to him the story of a man with an odd form of amnesia that wants to take revenge following the killing of his dead wife. While the revenge story is all but cliché and déjà-vu, the format is not. On the contrary, the entire movie is based on the concept, that Christopher Nolan imagined. Telling the story in reverse. This idea alone is brilliant. Not only it is wildly fun, but it fits perfectly the story. By telling the story in reverse, we get to experience the condition of Leonard. We actually become the character and fully identify with him, because, like him, we don’t know what the hell is going on.
To me, Carrie-Anne Moss is by far the best actress in the film. She plays the perfect way and was beautifully cast. The other actors were very good, but I am not fully convinced that Guy Pearce and Joe Pantoliano were the perfect choices for these roles. Don't get me wrong, the alchemy works well, but it doesn't work that well.
If I had another complaint besides the casting, I would say that the film is too much told and not enough showed. What I mean by that is that the main character spends most of its time on the phone, making his investigation remotely than really being on the field.
Third, the locations were doing the job, but there are no memorable locations.
Composed by David Julyan, the music is setting the atmosphere and a major character in the film. The film would clearly not work as well without the daunting score from Julyan. Performed on synthesizers, it sets a tone both melancholic and eerie at the same time. I really liked it and while it may be a sharp contrast with the epic soundtracks from Hans Zimmer later in Nolan's career, I cherish this soundtrack very much.
The directing from Nolan is very serious and elegant. He reminded me of Terrence Malick, especially in the flashback scenes where we see the character's wife. This made me think a lot of similar imagery from The Thin Red Line.
While this is only the first major film from Nolan, you can see right from the start the level of maturity and seriousness that he brings to his films. The reason why Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite filmmakers is that he doesn't take shortcuts. He does the job and does it the honest way. If a truck is supposed to jump and do a 180 degrees rotation in the air, he will ask the SFX team to create that effect. There is no blue screens in Nolan's cinema. He shows you a fake world with so much authenticity that the magic happens. And you feel immersed in this world. That will be even more tangible in future films, but Memento is a clear example of carefully telling the story from A to Z. Or in this case, from Z to A.
I give it 8 out of 10. A superb tour de force.
We all lie to ourselves to be happy.
It's not until a film like Memento comes along, or that you personally have to deal with someone close who suffers a form of this subject to hand, that you get jolted to remember just how your memory is such a prized and treasured thing - and crucially that it's one of your key safety devices.
Christopher and Jonathan Nolan crafted one of the best films of 2000 based on those facets of the human condition. Their protagonist is Leonard Shelby, played with stupendous believability by Guy Pearce, who is suffering from a memory amnesia caused by a trauma to the head as he tried to aide his wife who was raped and murdered. He can remember things before the incident, but anything post that and he can't form a memory. So who can he trust? Does he know any of the few people who appear to be in his life at the present time? He tattoos his body to help him remember, constantly writes notes to keep him alert in his now alien world, while all the time he is on the search for the man who ruined his life.
Christopher Nolan plants the audience right into Leonard's world. By using a reverse story telling structure it's deliberately complex and ingenious given that it opens with the ending! It has been argued that it's trickery for trickery sake, style over substance, but the way each scene is built upon in the narrative is a thing of high quality, it's all relevant and demands the closest of attention from the viewer, where cheekily we are ourselves asked to form memories of prior narrative passages. Mystery is strong throughout, the characters currently in Leonard's life may have different means and motives, it keeps us alert, with the confusion, lies, manipulations, enigmas and amnesia angles booming with neo-noir vibrancy. And the Nolan's know their noir of course, adding a narrator who is hard to define or trust himself!
The reverse structure wasn't new in 2000, but Christopher Nolan picks up the idea and adds new strands to it, simultaneously bringing his visual ticks as David Julyan's musical score shifts from elegiac forebodings to pulse pounding dread, and as evidenced by the darling easter egg option that allows one to watch it in chronological order, it's a damn fine thriller without the reverse trickery anyway. Super. 9/10
Excellent. I can't believe I've finally gotten around to watching all of Christopher Nolan's films (I have 'The Prestige' on DVD, but have yet to see it), but it's been well worth the wait. There are a couple of handful of English-language directors operating right now that I will make sure I watch every single film of, and Nolan has become one of those for me, and rightfully so. A very fine twist on the noir framework.
‘Memento’ is director Christopher Nolan’s tribute to classic film noir tales of revenge and mystery. By adding a new twist to traditional conventions, Nolan is able to consume and grip the viewer throughout the entire film and for years after. The aspect that differentiates this neo-noir from its competitors today is its jumbled and complex narrative which continually moves backwards in time. The viewers first see the main character complete his revenge murder (a triumphant scene we usually associate with the ending of film noirs). We then begin to see events unfold backwards and the reason for this becomes clear.
Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) and his wife are attacked in their home. His wife is murdered but Guy Pearce is left with a brain condition that disables him from creating anymore short-term memory. Constantly being reminded of the horror of the situation, he is relentlessly spurred on to get his revenge on his wife’s killer. As the viewer progresses through the film, they begin to feel more and more like Lenny. The audience have no idea of what has happened prior to the scene currently showing and so we are left feeling the same confusion as our protagonist. To cope with his condition, he maintains a system of notes, photographs, and tattoos to record information about himself and others, including his wife's killer. He is aided in his investigation by "Teddy" (Joe Pantoliano) and Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss), neither of whom he can really trust (both of the latter actors starred together in ‘The Matrix (1999)’ in which Pantoliano was not to be trusted, disorientating the informed viewer more).
The film's events unfold in two separate, alternating narratives—one in colour, and the other in black and white. Leonard's investigation is depicted in five-minute colour sequences that are in reverse chronological order, however, the short black and white scenes are shown in chronological order and show Leonard on the phone to a mysterious stranger having a conversation that the viewers cannot understand (these sequences are more direct references to the film noir genre that Christopher Nolan is embracing). This style of directing makes the audience completely empathise with Leonard’s situation as you never know more than he does, but also it creates huge comedic and emotional moments which rely heavily on the notion of dramatic irony.
With Nolan’s use of handheld camera work, an overtone of pink colouring, and sharp editing (the only transition effects in use are occasional fade outs) the viewer is made to feel disorientated and is therefore able to empathise more with Leonard’s character. The original idea was a short story by Nolan’s brother, Jonathan who also helped with the screenplay. The dialogue in the film is its best feature with its insightful, powerful and heart-wrenching speeches about the nature of memory. As we learn how we rely upon memory for our sense of reality, we begin to question reality itself. The idea of faith and constant references to the bible can make the entire film a metaphor for people’s faith in Christianity or any other religion at that.