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Memento


"We only have memories to remind ourselves who we are."
      - Leonard Shelby

Memento
©Independent Films, Holland
Newmarket / Summit Entertainment
Know what I mean? Things can change in the flick of an eye. And those who forget the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them in the future. I think. What was I talking about? Who is this? Remember Sammy Jankis? What about John G.? The next time you see me, will you remember me?

Already the confusion has begun. Some people try to explain that this film is a series of events running backward from end to beginning. This, however, is not absolutely true. It is slightly more complicated than that. The end is at the beginning, but the end is also at the end. The sequences take us in a reversed path in order to discover what has occurred in the past, but with each sequence we usually follow a direct line in the order of things. The sequences may run from start to finish, but, at the same time, be in reverse order. That often depends on whether we are in the present or in a memory mode. Are you confused now too? Having flashbacks? Don't worry. When you watch this fascinating film, things will fall into place. If not completely, you'll probably be enthusiastic enough to go back and see it a second time. Possibly even a third and fourth.

It's no wonder that this little gem has already won both "The Critic's Award" and the "Special Jury Prize" at the Deauville Film Festival as well as having captured the prize for best scenario at the Sundance Film Festival. "Memento" tells of Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), a man caught in a whirlpool of torment because of a recent "incident" and who suffers disastrously from short term memory loss. So extreme is his disability that he finds it nearly impossible to remember events that transpire only seconds earlier. He continuously takes photos, makes notes, and has messages tatooed on his body in an endless attempt to retain the most important clues and pieces of information in his desperate search to find the man who raped and murdered his wife one Tuesday morning.
Memento
©Independent Films, Holland
Newmarket / Summit Entertainment

Leonard may be well-dressed and drive an expensive car, but he looks unkempt and lives in dingy, cheap motels during his obsessive pursuit for vengeance. His life consists solely of the notes and charts that repeatedly inform him of what has happened and who certain people are. Without these crib sheets he would be completely lost in the chaos he experiences as his life. Along the way, he occasionally has to depend on others that he meets, but not everyone plays the game fair and square with Leonard. Friends can suddenly be revealed as enemies or enemies as friends in the rapid-fire revelations that take place around this confused man with a miniscule past. Two of the central characters in his journey are Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) and Natalie (Carrie Anne Moss). They become instrumental in the interpretation of the evidence Leonard gathers.

A thriller with a whodunnit tale encased in a structure that would make Raymond Chandler toss and turn at night. The non-linear development of this story makes it all the more terrifying as we question whether Leonard is a man in search of justice or an obsessed psychopath. The indecipherable line between fantasy and illusion make it nearly impossible to delineate between right and wrong. Jonathan Nolan, writer of the original short story upon which his brother, director Chris Nolan, based the script, says that, "First, he's created a thoroughly enjoyable crime thriller. And, at the same time, he's made a film that forces us to ask why we enjoy the crime thrillers in the first place. There's something deeply unsettling about Memento, because it's a film that deftly uses the trappings of its genre to subvert that same genre."

The cast is perfection. Joe Pantoliano and Carrie Anne Moss keep the twists and turns revolving as they convincingly flesh out all the facets of their roles, but most amazing of all is the performance of Guy Pearce, who keeps the tension alive every cinematic second in his subtle revelation of the anxiety and torment that his character endlessly undergoes. All three parts are excessively complicated and demanding and have been rendered with the utmost conviction. DP Wally Pfister has forcefully imaged all the proceedings and it is difficult to imagine getting deeper into the main character's brain in any other way than (heaven help us) by being the character. Not only does the structure of this masterfully crafted script keep the watcher's mind attentive, but it forces him to piece the puzzle together as best he can. By becoming totally involved with the events, the viewer becomes a part of the operating mechanism set upon him. The rhythm of the scenes edited by Dody Dorn have such precision that the viewer helplessly empathizes with the main character's plight. You can tell by watching a film like this that everyone involved with the production from every angle have given their all, and that includes the exciting production team of theTodd sisters.

This is probably the first example of an unforgettable film that may be forgettable at the same time. So, whatever you do, please remember that.

This is film first class*. A MUST SEE

* with a great website. Check out: www.otnemem.com

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett