An Italian research lab have posted some interesting graphic visualisations of Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000).
A thriller about a man named Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) suffering from memory loss, it explores his hunt for the murderer of his wife and is best known for its innovative structure, which contrasts two alternating narratives.
One in colour, which is told in reverse chronological order, whilst the other is in black and white and unfolds in chronological order, showing Leonard on the phone with anonymous caller.
Watching the film for the first time can be confusing and even after several viewings, key plot points provoke certain questions.
The basic structure of the film can be seen in this graphic on Wikipedia:
But in 2007-2008 some highly creative visualisations of Memento’s narrative structure were created at Density Design, a research lab in Milan.
(To see the full versions on Flickr just click on each image)
This one visualises the narrative's horseshoe shape
This one contrasts the progression of the film through the colour and B&W timelines
Using tattoos on a human body, this references how Leonard remembers things
This seems to be a reference to the chart Leonard actually makes in his motel room
This one measures the audience's uncertainty through different colours
The structure of the film is shown as a board game
Memento (Pathe/20th Century Fox Home Ent.): The classic 2000 thriller with an ingenious flashback structure about a man suffering from a memoray condition (Guy Pearce) trying to find out who killed his wife with the aid of a police officer (Joe Pantoliano) and a bartender (Carrie-Anne Moss) who may or may not be out to help him.
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, it firmly established him as a major talent with its clever narrative structure: one happens in reverse chronological order whilst the other shows Leonard in a hotel room on the phone as he explains more about his condition.
Although on first viewing the structure can be disorientating, the effect puts us in the position of the protagonist and also – like much of Nolan’s work – repays repeated viewing.
But aside from the cleverness of the construction, the film isn’t just a technical exercise and is a compelling tale of death, grief memory and revenge.
For only his second feature, after the low budget noir Following (1998), it was filled with technical expertise. Wally Pfister‘s cinematography created a distinctive blanc-noir look, Dody Dorn‘s editing made the fractured narrative run smoothly and David Julyan’s synth-heavy score established a moving sense of loss.
It is easy to forget just how good the performances are: Guy Pearce is outstanding in the tricky lead role, painting a riveting portrait of a haunted man adrift in a sea information he can’t process; Carrie-Anne Moss is a convincing femme-fatale with a twist, whilst Joe Pantiolano is wonderfully smarmy as the cop who may or may not be trusted.
A major independent hit that crossed over into the mainstream, it firmly established Nolan as a talent to watch before he went on to bigger Hollywood blockbusters such as The Dark Knight (2008) and Inception (2010).
The special features on the Blu-ray include extras from previous DVD versions but add a few more (most notably the Anatomy of a Scene and the Memento Mori video):
Audio Commentary by Christopher Nolan
IFC Interview with Christopher Nolan
Interview with Guy Pearce
Anatomy of a Scene Featurette
Shooting Script to Film Comparison
Memento Mori video narrated by Writer Jonathan Nolan
Production Skills and Sketches
International Poster Art
Easter Egg: The Beginning of the End
It is notable how well the film still stands up ten years on, with Nolan’s attention to detail apparent in both the script and visuals.
A film almost designed for repeated viewing, despite a lot of articles purporting to explain the conclusion (e.g. this Salon article), there is something tantalising out of reach about the climactic revelations, as though Nolan wanted us to be like the central character: confused and grasping about small details.
Despite all of Nolan’s Hollywood success since, this remains his most fascinating film and ranks amongst the very best of the decade.
Se7en (Warner Home Video): This dark and uncompromising serial killer film became one of the landmark thrillers of the 1990s. Set in a rainy, unnamed US city, Det. William Somerset (Morgan Freeman), a veteran about to retire, has to solve one last case with a rookie partner, David Mills (Brad Pitt).
Greenberg (Universal Pictures): A comedy-drama about a forty-something man, Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller), who decides to housesit for his brother in LA, where he meets an old friend (Rhys Ifans) and a younger woman (Greta Gerwig). Directed by Noah Baumbach.
Although Noah Baumbach’s films can suffer from heavy doses of smug, metropolitan misanthropy this is one of his more successful attempts to depict the downsides of modern life. [Read the full review here] [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD at Amazon UK]
Memento (Pathe/20th Century Fox Home Ent.): Classic 2000 thriller with an ingenious flashback structure about a man suffering from a memoray condition (Guy Pearce) trying to find out who killed his wife with the aid of a police officer (Joe Pantoliano) and a bartender (Carrie-Anne Moss) who may or may not be out to help him.
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, it firmly established him as a major talent with its clever narrative structure which inter-cuts two narrative threads. Although on first viewing the structure can be disorientating, the effect puts us in the position of the protagonist and also – like much of Nolan’s work – repays repeated viewing. [Read the full review] [Buy it on Blu-ray from Amazon UK]
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…the apartment of my character, ‘The Young Man’, was my flat in Iliffe Street, Walworth. Which is also where the bat was.
Keen-eyed viewers have spotted a Batman logo on the door of the flat. Some call it ironic (incorrectly), others say it’s prescient. Actually, I’d put it up in 1989 when I moved there; there was a film out called Batman that year…
And that was the way we made the film. None of the sets were designed, few were dressed. We made do — or rather, Chris chose places he thought were suitable and would take little arranging.
So far, so coincidental.
But it doesn’t stop there, as a screen grab Nolan’s next film Memento (2000) recently surfaced featuring …a Batman logo:
If you zoom in to the top right of the frame (timed at 0:47:58 on the DVD) you can see the logo for Batman alongside one for Superman.