Memento and Temporal Construction

Not only is J.J. Murphy’s chapter on Memento interesting to read on its own, but I found Bordwell’s Chapter on Narration and Time equally relavent to the same film.  Memento is a good film to analyze in this category due to it’s infamous technique of mimicking Leonard Shelby’s unique amnesia by assembling the narrative of the film in a very atypical, almost completely backwards way.  This film is so unique in it’s structure that the first time I saw the film was in a psychology class for psycho-analysis.  I agree with Murphy’s key point which states that in order for an independent film to succeed, both financially and artistically, there must be something truly unique about it.  There must be something attractive about the film which makes up for it’s low budget, lack of stars, or other disadvantage of indi filmmaking.  In Nolan’s Memento, I was first convinced that it’s uniqueness and attraction was in the editing.  However, the film was also scripted in the same way it was cut, which perhaps makes the writer responsible for the success of the film.  But after reading both Murphy’s and Bordewll’s articles, I think a better way to put it would be to say that the film’s ‘temporal construction’, whoever may be responsible for it (most likely Nolan) is the key to this film.  

This Wednesday night’s screening will be the fourth or fifth time I have seen Memento and I’m sure I will find something new, however small it may be.  Perhaps I can even try to map the temporality of the narrative on paper, something that I’ve heard is helpful and useful to do with this film especially.  As someone who enjoys editing I think this film is a great piece of work, but I’m also interested in watching the film in chronological order, which Murphy mentions is on the bonus section of the DVD.  As Murphy says, I suppose the film could work, could function, in the standard 1-2-3 order but it would lose the one variable which makes it special.  It would become stagnant and uninteresting because it would expose too much too quickly.  Murphy claims that it makes it feel like Leonard Shelby is constantly being taken advantage of and there’s nothing the viewer can do but watch it happen.  Despite all of this, there is no doubt that the opportunity to see a film cut with a different chronology is something truly unique.  Sure there have been director’s cuts or even something as unique as the re-cutting of Apocolypse Now but even that didn’t completely change the temporality of the narrative.  

On a side-note, the fact that Memento sparked Nolan’s career and led him on to direct his following box-office hits also speaks to the true uniqueness of both Memento and Nolan’s skills as a director.   

1 thought on “Memento and Temporal Construction

  1. Pingback: The world doesn’t just disappear when you close your eyes : Andrew’s Blog

Leave a Reply