I first got into movies when I was a kid. I always loved watching the behind the scenes videos of different movies. My love of movies continued to grow throughout my life, and I slowly built up a large collection of them. Then, towards the end of my days in high school, I started to become interested in the technical side of filmmaking. I got my first good look at movie makeup, special effects, and camera movements.
Once I got to college, I decided to take an intro film class during my freshman year. I need an extra credit to fill up my schedule and I liked movies, so I thought a basic film studies class would be an easy and fun way to get a good grade. This was the class that made me want to become a filmmaker. More specifically, it was Christopher Nolan's "Memento" that made me really want to make movies. We had watched several movies before Memento, but none of them really clicked. I basically just thought, "They're movies. Cool." They didn't leave much of an impact on me.
But for some reason, "Memento" was different. It was the first movie I had ever seen that actually made me sit up and pay attention. It sucked me in, and I was hooked immediately. It had such a big effect on me that it made me realize what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It's the movie that made me want to be a filmmaker.
Ever since, I've tried to figure out what made this movie such a big deal for me. Whe I really started to look at it, I realized that it does a fantastic job at putting the audience in the shoes of the main character and makes everyone sympathize with him. Guy Pierece's character, Leonard Shelby, is a man who had his entire life turned upside down when his wife was murdered and he received a head injury that prevents him from forming new memories. He spends the movie trying to track down his wife's killer so that he can get revenge.
Guy Pierce does a fantastic job at portraying a man who has gone through tremendous loss. Whenever someone mentions Leoard's wife, Pierce seems to almost get nostalgic, almost to the point of giddy excitement. Other times, he expresses annoyance when someone calls him Lenny, his wife's nickname for him that he hated. At the hardest times, he shows a tremendous feeling of sorrow for losing her. He shows all the emotion that someone would feel if they lost the love of their life. Leonard is portrayed in the film as a horribly unreliable narrator, but the reasoning behind his mission is understandable. He's gone through the greatest amount of pain and heartbreak anyone can ever experience. The audience can sympathize with his motives, even if his methods are questionable.
And then there's his memory loss. The head trauma that Leonard received from the attack prevents him from forming new memories. His memory can reset at any random moment. He won't remember anything about what happened just seconds before, and there's no telling when it'll happen. The film's editing really makes this hit home. The story alternates between two timelines. One starts at the end of the story and works backwards while the other starts at the beginning and works forwards, with both of them meeting in the middle.
The backwards flowing timeline shoves the audience into Leonard's shoes. While watching the movie, you'll know exactly what's currently happening and what's going to happen. But you know absolutely nothing about what happens mere seconds before a scene starts. It causes an immense amount of frustration. It jolts you to attention, and adds an element of confusion as to where you are in the story. This is the exact feeling that Leonard has. He never really has any clue what's going on, so he resorts to leaving himself notes and clues as a way of reminding himself what he just did. He's constantly at war with his own mind, questioning whether or not things are actually what he believes them to be.
Leonard Shelby is an unreliable narrator, for sure, but he's also a sympathetic one. He's been through one of the worst things a person can experience, and not even he can rely on what he says. The film does a perfect job of putting the audience into his mindset. The masterful editing, and a wonderful performance by Guy Pierce, really shows what Leonard is going through. It's a thought provoking movie about love and loss, and it's possibly one of the best movies of all time.