This review is not my normal kooky style and is more of an essay based on my first impressions of the film. Enjoy and feel free to give some advice, opinions and more. Thanks.
Quick note on my rating system?
*/5. So Bad Its Good- If I give a movie a "*," that means a special little turd. Its a movie that is so bad that its hilarious (even if the directors didn't mean to make it that way). These movies are great for sharing with friends and tearing it apart. Ex. The Room, Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation, Mac and Me.
1/5 Kill It With Fire, If I give a film a rating of "1" it means the movie isn't just bad. It is barely a movie or so offensive that to even uses a single sensory organ to witness it would be an insult to the heavens. If I give a movie a 1, avoid it at all costs. The film is pure garbage. Kill it with fire. Ex. Shrek The Third, Punisher: Warzone, 10,000 B.C.
2/5. Bad, A movie that lands itself in the bad category means that, while a failure, is not a complete failure. The movie might have some entertainment value, like a good character/scene, but as a whole it fails or is offensive. Ex. Wolverine Origins, Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace, Hancock.
3/5. Okay, The movie was neither bad nor great. Its probably worth at least once viewing and maybe more if it really catches your fancy. This is probably the easiest rating to give a movie. ex. Night at the Museum, Simpsons Movie, Prince of Persia.
4/5. Great, These are the movie I recommend you check out at least once before you die or it you're just bored. These are the movies that really deserve attention and help elevate film as art and entertainment. ex. Iron Man, How to Train Your Dragon, The 40-Year Old Virgin.
5/5. Favorite, These movies are instant classics....or at least in my book. I reserve 5/5s for movies that I HAVE to own and watch and share with everyone. At some point this year, I'll probably make a list for my top 100 films. Wink. ex. Big Trouble in Little China, Brazil, The Royal Tenenbaums.
Truth is in the Eye of the Beholder.
Memory is a complex thing. We use pneumonic devices, notes and records to help us remember events, facts and information. We use photographs to remember moments in time and film to remember entire events. As we move into a digital age where information is a search engine away and we can hold entire tomes, histories and cultures in our pockets, it is easy to see how why we take memory for granted. Leonard in Memento does not have the luxury of being able to create new memories. Leonard is a confused and disabled man. He cannot create any new memories and the last thing he remembers from before he is snapped into the present, and forgets what he was just doing, is the brutal rape and murder of his wife. Memento is about his quest to unravel the identity of the murderer to avenge his wife and memory loss. When Memento opens, Leonard believes that that he has all the fact, but, without going back and looking all the instances that led to the “supposed facts”, we can’t trust these facts.
The film does a fantastic job with dragging the audience kicking and screaming through each scene leading to the conclusion, which is revealed but not explained, in the film’s opening scene. Leonard shoots a man in the head. They use several tricks to clue the audience into where they are in the narrative. First, they use lighting to establish setting and time. In the scenes involving Leonard in the hotel and trying to find J.G. the lighting is dismal and depressive. The soft-lighting gives everything an overcast look and shows us that a storm is brewing. Leonard is of course distraught and this overcast just makes it hit harder. In contrast, when he relives the murder of his wife, the lighting is hard and high, giving us sharp detail and showing how everything besides that moment lacks the same emotional weight. The other dramatic change in time through lighting is the choice of showing the scenes involving his time as a claims agent and Sammy Jankis in black and white. This should be a clue to the audience that these memories are not quite as they seem. In fact, it is revealed that the only things that are exactly remembered correctly are those in the overcast. Memory isn’t so sharp and it isn’t black and white.
As each scene cuts, usually with a straight cut, giving us the feel of being jerk from scene to scene, just as Leonard is, from black to the next scene, we discover the truth. At first, very little is obvious. Not until we discover that Sammy Jankis isn’t real, Leonard killed his wife with insulin, Teddy is an ex-cop who has been using Leonard to kill people for money (telling him each victim is JG, allowing him to get his revenge), Natalie is also using him (abusing his memory to trick him into attacking Dodd), and that Leonard cannot even trust himself. We discover that although the narrator is somewhat reliable that, because he is a detective much like the audience trying to unravel the past events based on information given, Leonard set everything in motion that led to Teddy’s death. It was a way to end the cycle of unnecessary revenge but forced himself, or at least a version of himself, to use a future version of him down the line. This challenges the idea of identity.
Early on in the film we are not sure what to think of Leonard. We seem him murder Teddy and, despite the fact we don’t trust him, we can’t even be sure what to think of his involvement with Leonard. Leonard is a sympathetic character. He is, essentially, crippled as a person. As Teddy argues that he doesn’t even know what he has become because he only remembers who/what he was and the lies he has taught himself to survive. Leonard challenges that his actions are not futile because they leave their mark. He compares it to the fact that just because you close your eyes doesn’t mean you, and the world around you, doesn’t exist. In order to function, Leonard has to trust himself. This is, in some respects, his weakness and, because we relate and want to trust Leonard, our weakness as well. We can trust Leonard to give us the facts of any given moment but have to consider he is only working with what he can observe, his memories before the accident (which he has already tricked himself into changing) and his remaining intuition. The best way to watch the film a second time would be to do so by looking at each Leonard, in each scene, as a different person because, he is instantly defined and warped by his immediate reality.
In the end, the story all comes together for the observer because, unlike Leonard, we can connect all the dots and play detective. If there is anything to be taken away from Memento it is that the observer can only trust what he has observed and what he can remember. Yet, even Leonard says that “Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They're just an interpretation, they're not a record, and they're irrelevant if you have the facts.” Memory is not a photograph. Truth is in the eye of the beholder.