Costume and Makeup: What Is the Importance of Leonard’s Body Tattoos in Memento?

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Memento (2000) is a movie directed by Christopher Nolan that follows the life of Leonard, a man who, after an accident, suffers from short-term memory loss. When Lenny tries to save his wife from a possible rape, he hits his head on the floor damaging the way his brain functions, losing his capacity to create new memories. Every action of the film is set around a single objective; the relentless pursuit of the alleged murderer of Leonard’s wife. In order to be able to follow up the mystery, Lenny has developed a system where he writes up notes to himself, takes pictures of important people and events, and, most importantly, tattoos his body with important “facts” to remember clues as he tracks his wife’s murderer. Lenny’s tattoos are extremely important in Memento (2000) once they provide a memory trigger for the protagonist, building up his feelings of anger and revenge; they are key in character development and essential for the framework story. Lenny’s tattoos are a memory source for the protagonist, allowing him to remember the murder and building up mixed emotions regarding the case. The character has different tattoos in the front part of his body representing what he believes are facts and key pieces on the murder of his wife. One of them in particular, located on his chest and written backwards says: “John G. raped and murdered my wife”. Lenny’s tattoos not only helps the protagonist remember his goal, to catch and kill whoever it was who hurt his wife, but also feeds his feelings of revenge and anger towards the killer. When Lenny believes he has uncovered Teddy as being the killer of his wife, for example, he quickly catches sight of his tattoo establishing a casual connection that motivates him to go after Teddy and kill him. Lenny has a visual memory, even though he must relearn daily who he has met and what he has learned since the incident, he still finds strength and is encouraged by the power of his tattoos to keep looking for John G.

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