With news of another delay to Tenet it will be a while before we get treated to a new Christopher Nolan film, so it seems like a good time to dig into the Nolan vault and have a Classic Rewatch of one of his best and earliest: Memento.
Nolan’s second feature film put him on the map as a director to watch with its non-linear, cerebral and engaging story about a man (Leonard Shelby, played by Guy Pearce) suffering from anterograde amnesia (meaning he can’t form new memories that last longer than fifteen minutes). The solution to this problem? Polaroids, notes, and plenty of tattoos — all integral elements to aid him in finding ‘John G’, the man who raped and killed his wife. Memento was released to universal acclaim, received Academy Award nominations for Best Editing and Original Screenplay, and was a box office success. It showed the world what Nolan was capable of, and afforded him enough clout to go on to make what are essentially big-budget arthouse blockbusters.
But did you know…
1) Jonathan Nolan pitched the story to his brother on a road trip from Chicago to LA. Christopher wrote the screenplay, adding in the non-linear element whilst Jonathan also wrote a short story version, eventually releasing it as Memento Mori.
2) Indie legend Steven Soderbergh was an early fan of the film. Despite doing well on the festival circuit, Memento struggled to find a distributor. Soderbergh would praise the film at events and interviews to bring attention to it. Although this did not result in a distributor deal (that happened independent of Soderbergh) he was later instrumental in getting Nolan a meeting with Warner Bros. to direct his third film Insomnia which eventually lead to the Dark Knight series (and beyond).
3) You can watch the film in chronological order if you own the limited edition DVD. Pass a few memory based puzzles and the entire film is viewable with none of the non-linear storytelling. In this version, the beginning is the beginning, not the end (but where is the fun in that?)
Our clip shows Nolan discussing the film’s complex structure.