If you’ve ever played any RPG, chances are you shut down the autosave option once in a while unwittingly and all your progress after a certain checkpoint was erased and you had to start everything anew from there. Ever wondered what might happen if such a phenomenon occurred in real life? Well, the protagonist of a film finds himself stuck in a situation of that sort, except it’s not a game. The name of that film is Memento, directed by the famous British filmmaker Christopher Nolan. So let’s talk a little bit about it, shall we?
The plot is based on an insurance investigator named Leonard “Lenny” Shelby (Guy Pearce). One night, two armed guys broke into his apartment and choked his wife to death, who happened to be in the washroom at that time. Lenny heads there with his gun and shoots one of the intruders at point blank range. The other guy hits Lenny on his head and escapes. Lenny collapses while watching his wife breathe her last breath as he drifts out of consciousness. Consequently, he develops anterograde amnesia which renders him incapable of storing recent memories. Nevertheless, he seeks revenge for his wife’s murder despite being fully aware of his condition, even after the cops give up her case. Further unfolding of the story would result in dreaded spoilers.
Let’s talk about the film’s cinematography aspects which happen to be the most spectacular parts of it. The film is displayed in two parts. Colorful and B&W. The colored part moves reverse chronologically while the latter part progresses in forward chronology. They are arrayed in an altering sequence until both the sequences converge at the climax of the film. It is that moment of interception which left millions of viewers flabbergasted and erupted a series of debates about the movie’s ending which is yet to be explained properly. In and all, the film has been structured in two timelines, to make us feel as baffled as the lead character Lenny in his journey of forgetting everything that happened mere minutes ago.
However, the main theme the film aimed to portray is the need of a purpose in our life to sustain our existence. Lenny’s life has no purpose other than avenging his wife’s death because anything else he gets involved with will cease to exist after a few minutes owing to his amnesia. Even if he kills the murderer, he will continue seeking vengeance as the incident won’t exist in his memory. His wife’s death will always be fresh in his consciousness. It’s a limbo that he’s stuck under. People around him keep taking advantage of his condition, driving his ever fresh vengeance to fulfill their purpose, ultimately giving a meaning to his actions. For now, that’s Lenny’s purpose of existence in this reality, being someone else’s pawn and slave to his own challenged memories.