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Narrative Structure

Discuss about the Critical Analysis of the Film Memento.

Christopher Nolan is one of the famous American film directors who created some very memorable pieces of movies like, “Inception”, “Interstellar” and “The Dark Knight”. However, his film “Memento” is a unique one and earned much praises and appreciation from all over the world (Bell 2014). Memento is one of the memorable films in the history of filmmaking and provides a greater insight into the dark and unsettled phase of human life. Christopher Nolan has earned huge fame, worldwide for his exceptional movies and new approaches in all his films. However, Memento represents the dark side of life and is an action film that reflects the idea of a criminal mind. Dramas on crime, murder, horror and bloodshed had been a part of the old Greek plays and the film, Memento represents these several ideas in an all new way. The intense drama produced in the film actively attracts the attention of the audience and keeps them engaged with the film. The film earned good reviews and ratings from the film critiques and won several eminent awards like, “Critics choice award”, “Independent spirit award”, “Edgar award” and so on (Stone 2016).

However, the essay systematically discusses and analyzes the screenplay, the narrative structure and the plot of the film. It also represents the director’s view, his ideas and the essential style of the film. The essay is critical research or review of the film, Memento that brings in several important points of discussion. The essay provides a greater insight into the subject matter of the film and brings forward the important screen theories the parameters on which a film is judged.

The story of the film, “Memento” revolves around the life of Guy Pearce. Leonard Shelby who is the protagonist of the movie plays the character of Guy Pearce. Several other eminent film stars worked in the film like Jorja Fox, Stephen Tobolowsky, Larry Holden, Kimberly Champbell, Harriet Sansom Harris and so on (Hansen 2015). However, the film continues to move back and forth, from the past to present and present a very engaging and a unique plot. The film, “Memento” represents the concept of a story within a story, which is an old or early literary technique used by many writers to represent their stories. The man, Guy Pearce is shown to live in the present but constant flashbacks of the past help the audience gather more information about the film. The film is mainly centered on the concept of revenge since the protagonist Guy Pearce wants to take revenge for his wife's murder, but this is not an easy task to accomplish since Guy Pearce is in a state of memory loss. The life of Guy Pearce before the injury, which led to his memory loss, was different and over the course of the film, he tries to recollect those memories to find out the murderer of his wife (Carroll 2013). The injury and the subsequent memory loss happened in an incident that is related or associated with his wife’s murder. However, the film promotes a lot of tension, horror, and crime but at the same time also focuses on the emotional side of the protagonist, Guy Pearce.

Film Style

The most important part of the film is the genre as it decides the entire story or the narrative of the film. It is a non- fictional film and narrates a story crime and revenge. Along with this, a vivid representation of human psychology is also a main theme of the story (White 2016). The message conveyed through the film is also a strong one. It talks about the unsettled state of human life and reflects the concept of transience. Shakespeare’s concept of transience and the temporary state of all tangible things in the world further explains the message of the film. The narrative structure of the film is quite confusing and is often said by critics that "Memento" has a confusing structure of the narrative. Nolan very tactfully forms or structures the narrative structure to provide the information in parts and bits (Diehl 2016). For, example the opening scene of the movie where the protagonist in a motel room is conversing with himself is quickly changed or shifted to a new location.  The film greatly relies on the method of hints and suggestion where the story of the film is unraveled not in a flat way but through several suggestions and hints. The narrative technique is so set by the director so as to incorporate several pieces of stories and characters in one film. The narrative structure is an interesting twist of several incidents and scenes. The narrative structure also has a close resemblance with the protagonist of the play. The protagonist, remembers everything before the murder of his wife but has no idea of his present situation. However, the protagonist remembers the murder of his wife from where generates the idea of revenge. The protagonist through the help of snapshots, notes and even tattoos on his body remembers important information for his day-to-day survival (Sukumaran 2013). However, it is in this way of note taking and snapshots that he makes a rough draft of a criminal who killed his wife. The narration the film brings about the dark and gloomy side of human life. The film was made on a low budget and earned a huge amount of profit. Guy Pearce is unable to remember anything for more that fifteen minutes and in order to take revenge or kill the murderer of his wife, developed some useful strategies. He takes pictures of important things and persons and also makes note of every important detail so as to reach the criminal. The story of the film is built on the investigation of Guy Pearce, a mentally ill person. However, the narrative structure of the story brings in an interesting subplot that runs parallel with the main plot. The subplot consists of the story of Sammy and his wife which is a reflection of Guy Pearce's own life. Guy Pearce identifies that the mental problem of Sammy is not any physical disease rather a psychological disease (Reason 2015). However, the narrative structure of the film is fragmented and "not- linear”. This kind of narrative structure has been used in different films like, “In the Mood for Love”, “Exotica” and so on. The narrative structure aptly helped the film to represent the important themes and ideas of it. A further discussion of the style of the film that includes several other aspects can be done.

Cinematography

Another most important component of the film is the Film Style. It is mainly about the genre of a film that allows a particular film to be presented in a unique way. The style of a film also includes the cinematography, dialogues and also sound of a film. However, the style of a film varies from one to another and represents the subject matter in a unique way. The film is a crime thriller that incorporates scenes of murder and bloodshed. The thriller with its very opening scene creates a sense of awe and quickly grabs the attention of the audience. The killing of the cop, Teddy is very gruesome and sets the style and mood of the film. The sound presented in the movie also adds to the style of the movie. The sound of the bullets in the movie increases the intensity of horror and tension. From one of the flashback scenes in the movie, the audience comes to know about the horrific incident of the murder of, Jorja Fox who plays the role of Guy Pearce’s wife (Rubinstein and Katrina 2013). The scene propagates the theme of the film further and helps in providing a shape to it. The dialogues in the film are also very engaging and grim that that adds to the style of the film. In the film, Guy Pearce is seen to talk with, Sammy, a character played by Stephen Tobolowsky who is also having the same problem of memory loss like that of Pearce. The conversation between Pearce and Sammy mainly take place over the telephone and induces a sense of suspicion and secrecy. However, the film is a fictional one that is based on the imagination, ideas and thoughts of the director. The cinematography of the film, which is also a stylistic part of the film, is quite innovative (Furby and Stuart 2015). The film presents pictures of some crude and gruesome killings and captures the emotional void and feelings of the characters. The presentation of the film is unique since it continuously moves from past to present and from black to colored pictures and vice versa. The excellent cinematography of the film highlights the theme of the movie in perfect and the frequent use of black and white pictures aptly matches the sequence and situation of the movie. The characterization and their different revelations of the character also add to the style of the film. For example, Sammy’s wife enjoys a peculiar kind of amazement or satisfaction by taking more shots of insulin. Apart from this, the character of Jorja Fox is small but creates a huge or great impact on the storyline of the movie. The genre of the film being, crime thriller or action thriller, incorporates several important points that are discussed above.

Themes


The third most imperative feature of a film are the generic features of a film that mainly refers to the general features or characteristics of a film. The film propagates the idea of “an eye for an eye” which reflects the very theme of the movie. There are several dramas and movies also based on the idea of “an eye for an eye” and reminds the audience or the viewers about Shakespeare. In “Hamlet” the concept of “an eye for an eye” propagated the whole storyline of the play. The most important feature of the film is that it is a “neo-noir thriller”. The term “neo-noir” means “black and white” and was used by the Nino Frank, a critic in the year, 1946 (Noonan, Miles and Ian 2013). However, other interesting features of the film are the black and white scenes in between color scenes that reflect the history and past life of the protagonist. The scene where the protagonist is in a motel room in a lost condition is shown in black and white which perfectly matches with the condition or the mental state of the protagonist. The director does not follow the explicit manner of storytelling rather the story is unraveled through suggestions, hints, and observations. The audience is made to think or analyze, and at certain points, they become the detective to unearth the mystery. The use of black and white in the narrative structure of the film, suggests the idea of temporary memory loss. The abrupt use of white and black and on the other hand, the colored pictures or scenes in the movie directly refer to the state of the protagonist, Guy Pearce and the mental agony that he goes through. The narrative structure of the film does not follow any systematic pattern of storytelling, rather presents a haphazard way of presenting the story (Krueger 2015). This haphazard technique of storytelling is purposely done by Nolan to intensify the sense on unsettlement, dislocation, and chaos. Christopher makes full and efficient use of the screen to narrate his story and to engage the audience in his story. Another important feature of the film is the parallelism drawn between Guy Pearce and Sammy that highlights the psychological aspect of the movie. There are several famous movies based on the idea of the human psyche. For example, "Psycho" by Alfred Hitchcock is an excellent example a psychological film and inspired many directors to take up this idea or concept as a subject of their story. However, in the movie, “Memento” the concept of “temporary memory loss” is also a psychological disorder and it is a result of a violent accident (Furby and Stuart 2015). Two conflicting sides of the main character or the protagonist, Guy Pearce is an interesting feature of the film. Stories on conflicting identities or distinct identities have been presented in many movies and plays (Tseng and John A 2012). Similarly, the conflicting image or personality of the protagonist brings in several confusions and dilemmas in the movie. The use of Polaroid by the protagonist is another important feature of the movie that establishes the importance of creating memories. However, the film, Memento has several important and unique features that provide a new insight to the audience. Further, a discussion on the personal style of the director can be done.

Conclusion


The personal style of director also plays an important role. Christopher Nolan is one of the most prominent filmmakers in today’s world. Christopher Nolan has delivered excellent pieces of movies over the time and has earned a name for him in the global market of cinema. Christopher Nolan is an intellectual filmmaker and chooses the story of his film very cautiously (KAVADLO 2013). Nolan spends quite a considerable amount of time in reading several texts, traveling and so on, before presenting the theme or story. His personal style is thoroughly reflected in all his movies and his point of view gets a larger dimension in his movies. His move, “Memento” is not inspired by the classic Hollywood films, rather is a representation of Nolan’s own imagination. Nolan’s personal style of superior quality photography is reflected through the film, “Memento”. His creative cinematography can be also be found in the movie which a patent trait of Nolan’s movies. However, apart from this, his personal style of engaging the audience in his movies is also seen in the film. The story of the film is such that the audience also become a part of the movie and tries to unravel the mystery and the suspense. His style of presenting an innovative story line is also seen in the movie, “Memento”. His other films like, “Inception” and “The Dark Knight Rises” have unique story line just like, “Memento” (Koch 2013). Nolan's style of a non-linear story line is also his personal style of presenting a movie, which can be found in "Memento" as well. However, a film always reflects some of the ideas and styles of the director since it is the director who forms the movie and presents his idea through it. Christopher Nolan’s personal style is quite innovative and unique when it comes to filmmaking.

Conclusion

The essay systematically represents a thorough analysis of the film, “Memento” and describes the various important points of screen theories. The narrative structure, the style of the film, the genre and the theme of the film are broadly discussed in the essay. However, Christopher Nolan is definitely one of the excellent filmmakers with his excellent movies have gained a name and popularity for himself. The movie "Memento" was made on a low budget but the movie was a successful one and that paved the way for Nolan or inspired Nolan to produce more movies. The non-linear structure of the story and the dual personalities of the protagonist make the movie an interesting watch and grab the attention of the viewers. The film uses several modern techniques and among them, the cinematography is of special mention.

Reference

Barnaby, Andrew. "‘It Is the Cause… Let Me Not Name It’:(mis) Reading Memento Through Othello." Adaptation (2015): apu070.

Bell, Emma. "Inception and Grief-Time: Feeling Film as Philosophy." Film and Philosophy (2014).

Carroll, Noël. "Minerva's night out: philosophy, pop culture, and moving pictures." (2013).

Cole, David R., and Joff PN Bradley. "Congruent Theories of Time, Image and Education." In A Pedagogy of Cinema, pp. 99-119. SensePublishers, 2016.

Diehl, Nicholas. "Socratic Film." The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 74, no. 1 (2016): 23-34.

Furby, Jacqueline, and Stuart Joy, eds. The cinema of Christopher Nolan: imagining the impossible. Columbia University Press, 2015.

Hansen, Julie. Theories of Memory and the Imaginative Force of Fiction. The Ashgate Research Companion to Memory Studies, 2015.

KAVADLO, JESSE. "9/11 Did Not Take Place: Apocalypse and Amnesia in Film and The Road." The Popular Culture Studies Journal (2013): 61.

Botez, catalina. "skin-deep memos as prosthetic memory in christopher nolan’s memento (2000)." Probing the Skin: Cultural Representations of Our Contact Zone (2015): 312.

Reason, David Alan. "About Times: Some Reflections and Resonances Prompted by Reading a Draft Paper by David Zeitlyn." History and Anthropology 26, no. 4 (2015): 408-418.

Koch, Anett. "Visuality and Identity in Christopher Nolan's" Memento"." (2013).

Krueger, Joel. "At Home In and Beyond Our Skin: Posthuman Embodiment in Film and Television." In The Palgrave Handbook of Posthumanism in Film and Television, pp. 172-181. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2015.

Noonan, Estelle, Miles Little, and Ian Kerridge. "Return of the Memento Mori: imaging death in public health." (2013).

Rubinstein, Daniel, and Katrina Sluis. "The Digital Image in Photographic Culture." The photographic image in digital culture (2013): 22-40.

Schäfer, Samantha, Roel van den Oever, and British English–MLA Style. "Reflections in a Fractured Mirror: Identity and Reality Construction in “Memento Mori” and Memento." (2013).

Sterritt, David. "Puzzle Pictures: Warren Buckland, ed., Puzzle Films: Complex Storytelling in Contemporary Cinema (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) Warren Buckland, ed., Hollywood Puzzle Films (New York, NY: Routledge, 2014)." Quarterly Review of Film and Video 33, no. 5 (2016): 478-481.

Stone, Alan A. "John Seamon’s Memory & Movies: What Films Can Teach Us about Memory." In Cerebrum: the Dana Forum on Brain Science, vol. 2016. Dana Foundation, 2016.

Sukumaran, Vidhya. "Memento mori." (2013).

Tseng, Chiaoi, and John A. Bateman. "Multimodal narrative construction in Christopher Nolan’s Memento a description of analytic method." Visual Communication 11, no. 1 (2012): 91-119.

White, Daniel R. "Autopoietic Existentialism: Memory, Signification, and Communicative Action in Christopher Nolan’s Memento." In Film-Philosophy Confe.

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