When it comes to beginning with the end in mind, nobody took Steven Covey more literally than Christopher Nolan when he created Memento. A ride in nonlinear story telling, no film delivers a more glorious “Wait a minute! What?!” response from the viewer at its conclusion than this flick.
Lenard Shelby is a man suffering from significant short-term memory loss. Using notes and tattoos on his body he tracks clues that will point him towards his wife’s killer. Each new discovery is stained into his skin in order for him to remember what and who he is after. Each clue becomes part of his guiding truth as he awakens again at random to a blank slate of reality. Lenard’s journey with truth begs us to consider our own.
When my wife and I first watched Memento on VHS we watched the entire film over again by rewinding it section by section and watching it again—our low-tech way of trying to watch the film from beginning to end instead of end to beginning.
The reason we did this is simple: we felt like there was something hiding in there that we missed. And whatever that thing was, it felt significant to our life. I have never watched the same movie twice right in a row. Memento does this to us—it calls for us to take a look again at the story in order to see what is really there. Do we understand what is actually happening or are we just telling ourselves we do?
In what could be the poster child of postmodern film, Nolan asks postmodernity’s favorite question: Is truth relative? But Nolan doesn’t just ask the question about truth—he answers it. As you watch, consider: Do you accept Nolan’s truth about truth or do you have one of your own? And, if you have one of your own, where did it come from?