Topics: Christopher Nolan, Memory, Amnesia Pages: 5 (1898 words) Published: February 25, 2014
Who are we without our memory? Are we still human? Do we still have our identity? In the film, Memento, director Christopher Nolan tries to answer these questions through his character Leonard. Leonard suffers from short-term memory loss after a head injury that was incurred during an attack on his wife. Leonard believes his purpose is to seek revenge and find the man who raped his wife. As the audience, we are challenged to examine his relationships with his wife and Sammy and analyze the components of his “true self”, in order to determine if Leonard is a “freak” or more or less “like one of us”. Nolan will force us to decide how dependent human identity is on memory and if a “true self” exists if you take memory away. Most mysteries in the film can be solved by looking at the relationship between Leonard and Sammy.Leonard always brings up and has a tattoo that says “Remember Sammy Jenkins”. Sammy’s story is something Leonard obsesses over. He even thinks that he hears Jimmy whisper “Sammy” when he is carrying his corpse.By the end of the film, Teddy informs us that only some details of the Sammy story Leonard likes to tell are true. In fact, Sammy is a screen memory of what actually happened to Leonard. In Draper’s essay on Freud, we learned that screen memories are a result of repression, or blocking emotionally painful events out of conscious awareness. An insignificant memory, which for Leonard is Sammy’s story, serves a screen memory for the more traumatic memory: hi being the cause of his wife’s death. Leonard’s wife survived the attack. Teddy tells Leonard that it was actually his wife that was diabetic and we see a memory of him poking his wife with a shot of insulin. He developed a screen memory for this that was just him pinching his wife’s leg. Teddy says, “Sammy was a conman. Sammy didn't have a wife. It was your wife who had diabetes”. Leonard was the one that gave her too much insulin which led to her death. Nolan definitely wants the audience to believe this because we see a scene that shows Sammy in the in the care home and for a brief moment, Leonard takes his place. Unlike the Sammy in the story that could not condition himself to remember, Leonard has been able to do this. At first, it looks like Leonard’s memory is purely temporary. But Nolan gives us subtle clues to show that Leonard does remember things after the accident. Leonard conditions himself to create new memories. He tells Sammy’s story to create a new ending for his own. He also knows how to not allow himself to remember. For example, when Natalie crumples up a photo of Dodd he tells her,”You have to burn it”. We also see him do this with Jimmy’s photo as well. He is aware that in order to forget the photo it has to be disposed in a way where it will never be seen again. He has clearly done this before. Another instance of this is when Leonard asks the prostitute to spread his wife’s belongings around the room, and gives her specific instructions like to slam the bathroom door when she is finished. Leonard has a certain procedure that shows that this isn’t the first time he’s done this. He is conditioning himself to think that his wife died in the attack. There are times in the movie where it seems like Leonard is helpless and has no control over his actions. When he is running away from Dodd, his memory is cleared and he doesn’t know if he’s chasing someone or if someone is chasing him. Another example of this is when he awakens to find Dodd tied up in the closet and can’t recall who he is or how he got there. A huge indication that Leonard doesn’t have control over his actions due to his inability to remember is when Natalie tells him that she is going to use him. She tells him to his face that she is going to take advantage of him because he can’t remember anything and Leonard doesn’t write this down before his memory resets again. Leonard’s way of controlling his actions is to rely on facts that he writes down on his body or...
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