Each week, one of the Filmoria team will be taking a skeleton out of their closet in the form of a movie widely regarded as a classic and finally watching it for the first time. This week, Sarah Buddery finally adds Memento as another reason why Christopher Nolan is one of her favourite directors of all time…
I’m a huge Christopher Nolan fan, to the point where I would easily consider him to be one of my all-time favourite directors. Whenever I mentioned this in conversation, I would state my case for why The Prestige is my favourite, and why Interstellar really isn’t all that bad, and yes The Dark Knight is probably the greatest superhero movie ever made. However, I would then have to deal with the rather shameless revelation that I hadn’t seen what is considered as one of Nolan’s classics, 2000’s Memento. Generally met with a mixture of shock and disgust, I have finally rectified this terrible crime and watched it!
Because my life revolves around film, I had been unable to avoid some plot details about Memento in the last 17 years, so I was aware of the somewhat unusual narrative structure and that the events would play out in reverse, but fortunately the “twist” and the ending had still eluded me, so I was able to go into it partially blind, although not entirely.
Memento was everything I was hoping it would be and more; a lot less “flashy” and not reliant on special effects as some of Nolan’s latter films would be, Memento is simpler in some ways but still wonderfully complex as only Nolan films can be. Whilst the unusual narrative structure is a little jarring at first, it quickly settles into a rhythm, which for all its complexities works wonderfully in conveying the memory loss experienced by the character of Leonard (Guy Pearce); as he is piecing together the details of what happened to his wife, so are we. It is refreshing to watch a film where it feels like the character never really has an upper-hand on us as the audience, and it is completely thrilling to watch it unfold.
Rarely will a film make you work as hard as Memento does, and in the same way you’ll feel satisfied after finishing a crossword or a jigsaw puzzle, by the time the film is over, you will sit back with a sense of satisfaction (albeit perhaps with some questions as well!) as you mull over what you have seen. Memento is an elaborate puzzle of a film with a unique and wonderful method of story-telling that is hard to fault. The performances, particularly from Guy Pearce, who has to hold so much of the film, are all wonderful. The character of Natalie (played by Carrie-Ann Moss) will take you on a rather tumultuous journey in which you will experience most of the feelings you can feel towards any kind of fictional character, and it is a wonderfully layered performance from her.
Whilst Memento is undoubtedly a film which necessitates a second watch, I do fear it is one of those films which perhaps won’t be quite as impactful on multiple repeated watches. When you “know the thing that you know” on the second watch, it is deeply satisfying to pick up on all the little clues and hints that perhaps went over your head the first time, but beyond that there’s no way the film can continue to replicate the first couple of experiences you had with it, which is a shame. Of course I have only seen this film twice now, so I could be entirely wrong in this assumption!
Whilst The Prestige remains my firm favourite Christopher Nolan film, Memento has shot straight up my list of favourites to sit somewhere within the top 3. It’s thrilling, funny, tense, and an immensely satisfying watch. There’s no shame if you haven’t seen this film yet, just do what I did and make sure you tick it off as soon as possible as it is still an absolute must-see, and as fresh and wonderful as it was 17 years ago.