Allow us to refresh you. Memento made its U.S. premiere at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival and effectively introduced director Christopher Nolan—who was only 30 at the time—as a smart, slick directing force to be reckoned with.
In retrospect, it was an auspicious marriage of talent, freshness, and artistry that made Memento such a universal success. Nolan and his lead actor Guy Pearce were burgeoning talents in their own rights, but their newness somehow elevated this cerebral thriller to an even greater stature.
If you’re among the deprived souls who have yet to see Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby, a man seeking to avenge his wife's murder while suffering from anterograde amnesia, you may want to stop reading here and check it out on Netflix, or better yet in April as part of this year’s From the Collection screenings at Sundance London.
For everyone else, keep reading and scroll through some gifs to reacquaint yourself with the tangled labyrinth that is Memento. For all of its sleight of hand, Nolan’s directing never approaches frivolity. It is precise in its disorientation, pushing the viewer to empathize with Leonard’s struggle by way of omitting information—or, more accurately, not revealing it until a later time.
Memento alternates between black-and-white and color sequences in a sort of temporal manipulation. Scenes that appear in black-and-white take place chronologically before color scenes and are presented in appropriate order.
Scenes that appear in color take place chronologically after black-and-white scenes and are presented in reverse order. Got that? (The opening color scene in the film is chronologically the last scene in the story, and the subsequent black-and-white scene is chronologically the first scene in the story).
As a remedial to his anterograde amnesia, Leonard Shelby takes Polaroids to document memories that he will not remember.
He also gets tattoos of notes and facts that will help him track down his wife's murderer.
And as if putting together a puzzle without all of the pieces wasn’t convoluted enough, others take advantage of Leonard’s condition and begin to manipulate him, leading him to fuse details of multiple stories into one insoluble mess.
Ultimately, everyone becomes a victim of Leonard’s circumstance.
But don't worry if you get confused. It happens to the best of us. Specifically, Nicolas Cage.