Memento (Review & Analysis)

Memento is an American film, directed by Christopher Nolan, released in 2000. Nolan is one of the most philosophical movie maker of nowadays. From the Following to Inception, Nolan uses philosophical questions as thread of his films.

Memento Analysis

Following an attack in which his wife has been killed, Leonard Shelby suffers from anterograde amnesia (memory disorder that is characterized by an inability to secure new long term memories). Having lost his anchor in time, however, he began an investigation to satisfy his desire to revenge.

The hunt for the killer, which should only be a back door for us into the labyrinth ofShelby’s  memory, quickly turns into a benchmark saving, in all essential guide for Shelby that for us spectators, manhandled and tossed at the mercy of meandering memory of it. Because we do not deceive ourselves, which is what it is truly investigate it on Shelby himself. For him, the challenge is to disentangle the son of his memory and renew, if possible, with the lost thread of his identity. But here’s the thread psychological maintained, although weak, is sufficient to close the gaps of its identity? Most importantly, is it enough to make him a “place” of responsibility, standing “behind” the series of “roles” that he endorses? Where we continue to see behind the succession of our perceptions, the presence of an unchanging self (such as a theater seeing a succession dramas and tragedies), the Scottish philosopher David Hume asserts that identity is an illusion : we are a collection of fleeting impressions. What are we, since we are not ?

Memento is a privileged laboratory to answer this question. The film will be taken as a testing ground to test some theories on the philosophical concept of “personal identity”. Through analysis of narrative structure in chiasmus of the film, it will also highlight how it is for the viewer to reconstruct the history, give consistency and thickness, and therefore how it is to him that the director Nolan says the responsibility to assign the only Shelby identity to which he can claim: an identity to the “third person”.

After seeing this film, we can ask two things: “Can we rely on his memory? “And” Is the hero responsible? “(for having killed four people with firearms and his wife by injecting her too much insulin). This film is therefore a Philosophy on the theme of responsibility and of the person. In addition, the ending is open and may allow different interpretations depending on the sensitivity of each viewer:

The film deliberately uses a subliminal image. In the scene that takes place in the mental hospital, where Leonard Shelby voice-over tells the story of Sammy Jenkins, we see it sitting on a chair in the hospital. It follows the look a nurse. This is within the scope of the camera from the left, Sammy hiding in the eyes of the viewer then leaves the field to the right. For 1 / 8 of a second is Leonard Shelby that you see on the chair instead of Sammy. The plan barely noticeable is the key to understanding the film. Sammy Jenkins and Leonard Shelby are one.


Memento Quotes:

– “The memories are malleable, they are interpretations, nothing more. They do not measure up to reality. “(Leonard Shelby)

– “Leonard Shelby: I’m Leonard Shelby. I’m from San Francisco.

Teddy: That’s who you were. That’s not what you’ve become”

– “I always thought the joy of reading a book is not knowing what happens next”

– “Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They’re just an interpretation, they’re not a record, and they’re irrelevant if you have the facts”

– “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’s still there. Do I believe the world’s still there? Is it still out there?… Yeah. We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are. I’m no different”

– “We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are. I’m no different”

– “He killed my wife. He took away my fucking memory. He destroyed my ability to live.”

Cite this article as: Tim, "Memento (Review & Analysis), March 20, 2012, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, March 20, 2012,

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