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Indie Spotlight: Memento

Written by Film

Christopher Nolan is often recognised as one of the most exciting British filmmakers of the last twenty years. His Dark Kight trilogy redefined the superhero genre, whilst his big-budget thrillers Inception and Dunkirk showed that blockbusters can be intelligent and still make a killing at the box office.

Along the way the director has proven that he has a knack for embedding tiny details in his narratives. His 2006 drama The Prestige, which tells of two feuding magicians (Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale), is one example of Nolan’s non-linear storytelling. Contrary to audiences preconceptions of what they ‘think’ they saw, the film’s ending proves that Nolan is always one step ahead. Rewind a further six years and you find the film that transitioned the UCL-educated filmmaker from the country’s capital to Hollywood.

For the next time sudoku or crosswords just don’t cut it, look to Memento for your new favourite puzzle.

Memento follows ‘Leonard’ (Guy Pearce) a man with short-term memory loss set on finding his wife’s killer. Assisted along the way by his companion, Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) and inked to the neck in tattoos, Leonard must navigate through the sun-drenched LA landscape to find the man behind the murder. Interesting parallels form between Leonard’s body art, which functions like notes to remind him of the developments in the case, and the stripped back California landscape; both offer a hollow aesthetic that masks the darker secrets of the narrative. Nolan refuses to elaborate on these codes, often contrasting Leonard’s monochromatic flashback sequences with the natural light of the present day, to reflect the confusion of the film’s protagonist.

Audiences are, similarly, perplexed by the breadcrumbs that Nolan leaves for us along the way, until, in true Hitchcockian fashion, he delivers the fatal twist. This dramatic conclusion propels the earlier action to the forefront and, as such, calls for audiences to reevaluate their sympathies. Today, Memento exists as more than just a ‘whodunnit’ crime drama, nor even a gruesome revenge thriller. It’s storytelling and originality, instead, earned it strong critical acclaim and snagged the film two Oscar nominations for best editing and original screenplay. For the next time sudoku or crosswords just don’t cut it, look to Memento for your new favourite puzzle.

Last modified: 8th May 2019

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