A man with short-term memory loss attempts to track down his wife’s murderer. The movie travels backward in time like a memory inside a memory. Guy Pearce plays Leonard Shelby who has anterograde amnesia (the inability to form new memories) and is unable to remember anything that happens day-to-day due to an injury he sustained involving the murder of his wife. To compensate for his damaged memory he scribbles down notes, takes Polaroids of everyone he meets, and tattoos facts on his body to sketch together who he is…where he is…who murdered his wife? One can feel the evil Leonard feels enveloping him.

Memento premiered on September 5, 2000, at the Venice International Film Festival, a neo-noir psychological thriller film written and directed by Christopher Nolan, and produced by Suzanne and Jennifer Todd. The film’s script was based on a pitch by Jonathan Nolan (Christopher’s brother), who later wrote the story “Memento Mori” from the concept. It stars Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Joe Pantoliano.

The movie alternates between color and black and white sequences. The black and white sequences proceed in chronological order, while the color sequences proceed in reverse chronological order. The forward black and white scenes and the reverse color scenes alternate until they meet in the middle of the story at the end of the film.

It’s like we try to put you in his head and that’s why the story is told backwards, because it denies the information that he’s denying. So in a way, it was much more straightforward and organic.  –  Christopher Nolan

The movie was filmed in only 25 days, which Nolan said only added to the intensity of the movie.

Brad Pitt was initially picked to play Leonard. Pitt was interested in the part, but passed due to scheduling conflicts. Guy Pearce was chosen partly for his “lack of celebrity” and his enthusiasm for the role, that Pearce expressed in a personal phone call with Nolan.

After being impressed by Carrie-Anne Moss’ performance as Trinity in the 1999 science fiction film The Matrix, Jennifer Todd suggested her for the part of Natalie. Nolan decided to cast Moss as Natalie, saying, “She added an enormous amount to the role of Natalie that wasn’t on the page.” Moss suggested her co-star from The Matrix, Joe Pantoliano. At first, there was concern that Pantoliano might be too villainous for the part, he was still cast, and Nolan said he was surprised by the actor’s subtlety in his performance.

Memento is a film that comes across once or twice a generation. William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes that Memento is a “delicious one-time treat”, and emphasizes that director Christopher Nolan “not only makes Memento work as a non-linear puzzle film, but as a tense, atmospheric thriller”.

Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan, born July 30, 1970 in Westminster, London, England is one of the most commercially successful film directors of all time. But Nolan is much more than simply a blockbuster machine, he also blends an acute artistic sensibility with very watchable and entertaining movies. This unique blend of commercial success and artistic quality makes one think of Howard Hawks or Stanley Kubrick even though all three are completely different talents with different sensibilities.

Since Christopher Nolan was a child he thought of making movies and began at age seven, borrowing his father’s Super 8 camera and shooting short films with his action figures. Nolan’s family relocated to Chicago during his formative years, he started making films with Adrien and Roko Belic. He has continued his collaboration with the brothers, receiving a credit for his editorial assistance on their Oscar-nominated documentary Genghis Blues (1999). Nolan was educated at Haileybury and Imperial Service College, an independent school in Hertford Heath, Hertfordshire, and later read English literature at University College London (UCL).

In 1998 Nolan directed his first feature, Following, for $6,000 which he personally funded and filmed with friends. It depicts an unemployed young writer (Jeremy Theobald) who trails strangers through London, hoping they will provide material for his first novel, but is drawn into a criminal underworld when he fails to keep his distance. This strange underground film opened the door to Memento, his masterpiece, and also has brought forth a string of amazing movies like Inception, his three Batman movies and Dunkirk.

Credits

Director: Christopher Nolan

Producer: Christopher Ball

Screenplay: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan (original story)

Music: David Julyan

Cinematography: Wally Pfister

Editor: Dody Dorn

Production Designer: Patti Podesta

Newmarket Capital Group

Released: January 19, 2001

Starring Cast:

Guy Pearce

Carrie-Anne Moss

Joe Pantoliano

Mark Boone Junior

Russ Fega

Jorja Fox

Stephen Tobolowsky

Running time 113 minutes