Christopher Nolan, 2000
Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) can’t remember not to forget.
Leonard’s life got broken the day his wife got assaulted. He lost his short term memory. Anything he does he forgets after only five minutes. To move forward in this darkness, he turns into an investigator, supported by the mysterious Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) and the enigmatic Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss). He is using clues as tatoos on his body to lead him to the murderer : John G. He trusts facts, not memories.
Memories can be distorted. They are just an interpretation.
During his investigation he discovers that he already found John G. He just doesn’t remember. Just like he doesn’t remember he is the one who killed his wife by mistake.
Leonard choses to ignore the truth. He consciously leaves holes to be able to reignite his investigation and find another John G.
Memento is about our own storytelling.
Leonard was a victim of a drama. His life changed. But he’s not a victim anymore. He turns into a perfect criminal in the sense he’s absolutely sure he’s doing what’s right. He lives in his own bubble, stuck in his own narrative that his written on his body. When Teddy is trying to take him out, it’s just unbearable. Leonard can’t accept the reality. He keeps repeating:
I want my life back!
So he goes back to a past he keeps rewriting to live better. Or to live, period. Difficult for him to accept he killed his wife because of negligence. Impossible for him to live without being able to build anything. When everything vanishes after 5 minutes. He rewrites everything the same way we do by repeating ourselves the same story over and over again, transforming them the way we like. We believe what we want to believe. His body is a piece of art. His lies are a masterpiece (cf Damien Hirst).
Leonard working for an insurance company is who he was, not who he is. He has invented a character for himself. He became a knight seeking for revenge. He wants to exercise justice himself.
You don’t want the truth. You make up your own truth.
He’s not looking where he should. Whatever. He cheats with his own rules. He refuses to really look for an answer he couldn’t stand.
We all lie to ourselves to be happy.
Leonard has 5 minutes to decide the rest of his life. He choses to live, even if that should make him a monster, probably because of survival.
I have to believe in a world outside my own mind. I have to believe that my actions still have meaning, even if I can’t remember them. I have to believe that when my eyes are closed, the world is still there. Do I believe the world is still there? Is it still out there? Yeah… We all need mirrors to remember who we are. I’m no different.
He just wants to be like everyone else. So he pretends he understands. He pretends he recognizes. He reads the story he wants. He creates his own scenario.
We all take advantage of each other. And our life expectancy is extremely short anyway, so what’s the point. Even if Leonard resuscitates every five minutes, he can’t make plans. He’s got nothing ahead but a past he made up. He lives in a bracket, mission after mission, like all of us. We’ve all become like Leonard, thinking short term, surviving on updates. We forget what we just said. Nothing remains. Our life sadly looks more and more like a Snapchat story.
How do we chose to live? What is reality? What did we do five minutes ago?
This publication reflects the views only of the author.