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Memento: Character and Different Film Stocks

By gladest Mar 30, 2008 477 Words
The film, “Memento” was directed by Christopher Nolan. In the film, the protagonist Leonard Shelby has lost his short-time memory due to a brain trauma, he cannot make new memories any more. His wife was killed by robbers, and despite his state he wants to track down the murderer and kill him. He uses photographs and tattoos on his body to make himself remember some important facts. Christopher Nolan presented the plot in an untraditional format so that the viewer would be placed in the mind frame of Leonard Shelby. The plot of “Memento” was presented in a disjointed, out-of-order fashion order that we as an audience must reorganize to make sense of the underlying story. Nolan utilizes three different film stocks to portray the story. The color sequences run in a reverse-chronological order, black and white sequences are used to show flash back scenes, and a grainy black and white film stock runs in chronological order. Using this technique, Nolan forces viewers to relate with the mentally-impaired protagonist, since they encounter each event disoriented. For instance, at the start of every color sequence, Leonard is confused and does not know where he is or what he was doing and both the viewer and main character are trying to figure out what happened. Also with the different film sequences it forces the viewer to recall what they have seen previously in the film. At first the three different film stocks have a clear distinct sequence but at the end they all mix in together. Nolan also uses lighting to convey the storyline. In the color scenes, there is realistic lighting. In the black and white scenes with Sammy Jenkins there is soft lighting emphasizing that it is a flashback. In the black and white scenes with Leonard talking on the phone in the hotel room, there is low key lighting where there is a sharp contrast between light and dark. Nolan makes use of short takes to further emphasize the point of relating to the character. The Sammy Jenkins scenes show us how Leonard used to be. He seemed to be a professional insurance worker that had a beautiful wife. Now he is only associated with his disease, he lost his wife, and he lost his successful life that he had. Each film sequence is short, lasting only about five minutes and dissolves into another film sequence. The lengths of these sequences emphasize the disease especially in combination with the varying chronological and reverse-chronological orders. In conclusion, the focal point of the film was to place the viewer in the mind frame of the main character with the use of three different film stocks, lighting, and the use of short takes. It was a highly engaging and suspenseful film where the viewer was eager to figure out the puzzling storyline.

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