Memento: Confusing people since 2000

Memento (2000)

Every aspect of Memento is a puzzle and a challenge; including the story, characters, and even the DVD box-set. If there was ever a movie that justifies(requires) a second or third visit, this is it. Not that anything becomes any clearer or easier to understand with additional viewings, however that’s part of the films genius. Varying conclusions can be reached depending on what the viewer chooses to believe; which memories are true and which characters are telling the truth. I will attempt to narrow down the possibilities and explain why there is no unanimous, correct conclusion.

“They’re [Memories] just an interpretation, they’re not a record, and they’re irrelevant if you have the facts.” – Leonard

This quote alone creates a clusterfuck of possibilities and doubts. Every flashback that’s shown is thrown into question. Did those events actually happen the way Leonard remembers or is that how he wants to believe they occurred? There are several (great) scenes in which Leonard recollect two versions of the same event and has trouble distinguishing between which is the real memory. Although this follows Leonard’s quote about memories being interpretations, it also opens up a new contention. Which flashbacks are the actual events; the original, the altered, or are they ever-changing? Depending on which version is believed, widely differing conclusions can be reached.

“You know, I’ve had more rewarding friendships than this one. Although I do get to keep telling the same jokes.” – Teddy

Every character, besides one (I’ll get to him), at some point takes advantage of, or lies to, Leonard. Therefore, these characters motives and credibility are questionable at best. Teddy constantly tricks Leonard for his own personal gain. He pretends like they never met, lies about being a cop, tries switching cars (money in trunk), and most importantly sets Leonard up to kill Jimmy in order to rob him of drug money. Another person who uses Leonard is Natalie. Realizing that Leonard killed Jimmy and took the money, she uses him to take care of Dodd (Jimmy’s drug partner) for her. The only character that (apparently) does not lie, or have a motive to lie, is Jimmy. Before he dies, he mutters something about remembering Sammy Jankis. It then becomes obvious to Leonard that Jimmy didn’t kill his wife and that he has in fact met with Jimmy previously, telling him the story about Sammy. Realizing he was setup by Teddy, he tricks himself (by writing fake notes) into believing Teddy was responsible for his wife’s murder.

“I was the only guy who disagreed with the cops – and I had brain damage.” – Leonard

Another character that appears to be telling the truth but (probably) isn’t is Leonard. Now, on top of all the other confusion and deception, an unreliable narrator is added to the mix. If the police didn’t believe him, why should the audience? This opens up a whole array of questions, while answering none. Throughout the course of the film, Leonard (& his condition) are taken advantage of by many, including himself. This ultimately leads to the surprise “twist;” the film’s end but the stories beginning.

“She’s gone. And the present is trivia, which I scribble down as fucking notes.” – Leonard

Although not everything is thoroughly explained, Memento has a strong narrative that maintains a perfect balance of being enigmatic without feeling cheap or contrived. Many theories can be formed, but none can conclusively solve the puzzle. It allows each individual viewer to form their own opinion and ensures that the film will be talked about, analyzed, and debated long after its release (as it has).


About sebastianhaff
I'm Steve. 24 year old recent college grad. My love of films (and sheer boredom) lead me to begin this blog. My taste in movies is eclectic, although I tend to lean toward foreign and non-mainstream cinema. Feel free to contact me at:

One Response to Memento: Confusing people since 2000

  1. Pingback: Top 10 Movies: 2000 « It's a Trick. Get an Axe.

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