One of the greatest cult movies of all time has reached a significant landmark. Yes, that’s right: Christopher Nolan‘s mind-bending masterpiece Memento marks the 15th anniversary of its American release today.
Telling the story of amnesiac Leonard Shelby as he sets out to avenge his wife’s death, the story is told completely in reverse, with the film starting at the end of the plot, shifting backwards in time.
In honour of the film’s decade and a half anniversary, we take a look at 15 things which – like Leonard – you (probably) forgot about the film.
1. You wouldn’t want to watch it with a hangover
Credit: Dr Steve Aprahamian
According to IMDb, “when numbering the scenes chronologically, then sorting them how they appear in the film, a pattern becomes more clear.
“The letters A-V represent the color scenes (with A happening chronologically first, and V chronologically last), and the numbers 1-22 represent the black and white scenes chronologically. The scenes appear in the film like this: 1, V, 2, U, 3, T, 4, S, 5, R, 6, Q…20, C, 21, B, 22/A”.
2. The DVD is just as impressive as the film
Sure, a lot of effort must’ve gone in to Memento‘s reverse narrative, but it seems the marketing team put just as much work into a limited edition DVD release, which came packaged to look like Leonard’s case file from a mental institution.
The DVD menus were designed as a series of psychological tests, with the standard ‘play’ button eschewed in favour of the viewer choosing certain words, objects, and multiple choice answers to play the movie or access special features.
3. And just as confusing…
The UK version of the DVD release contained a hidden feature which allowed the film to be watched in exact chronological order.
However, this version of the movie was quite difficult to reach, with the viewer having to answer several questions and solve a puzzle to get it.
4. It kick-started Christopher Nolan’s fascination with dead wives
Memento was the first to kick off a string of Nolan films with a morbid thematic connection, as Leonard seeks to avenge his wife’s death.
Since then, dead wives have also cropped up in The Prestige, Inception and Interstellar.
5. Christopher Nolan kept it in the family
The film was based on Memento Mori, a short story penned by Chris Nolan’s brother Jonathan that was published in Esquire magazine shortly after the film’s release.
Since it was technically published after the film version, Christopher Nolan’s screenplay still stands as an ‘original’ script.
6. It’s one of the best screenplays ever written
That’s according to the Writers’ Guild of America, who ranked it at Number 100 in their list of the 101 Greatest Screenplays ever written.
7. It modeled itself on The Blair Witch Project
At least it did in its web presence.
At a time when marketing teams were beginning to get to grips with what web pages could do, Memento’s URL aped The Blair Witch Project, with a website that was intended to provide further clues and hints to the story, while not providing any concrete information.
8. The marketing team was a bit mad
Another buzz generating ploy involved the marketing team sending Polaroids of a bloody and shirtless Leonard pointing menacingly at his chest to random people.
We’re pretty sure that’s creepy.
9. There are two Bollywood versions
A film hasn’t really pierced the social consciousness until it’s been (loosely) remade for the Indian market, and in 2005 A. R. Murugadoss directed a Tamil version of the plot entitled Gajini.
It proved so successful that in 2008 the very same director remade his own film into a Hindi version, with a slight spelling alteration to its title (Ghajini).
10. Guy Pearce really did beat up Larry Holden
Before filming the scene where Leonard (Pearce) kills Jimmy (Holden), Holden told Pearce to actually attack him.
Pearce, who had trained as a a former bodybuilder, went along with it and left Holden covered in bruises after the scene.
11. It’s as much a film about photography as it is about amnesia
With main character Leonard taking snaps on his trusty camera (a Polaroid 690, aperture fans!) to chronicle the people and experiences he comes across on a daily basis, Memento is as much a film about photography as it is about any kind of memory loss conditions.
12. It’s not the only reverse chronology film going
Though it may be the most well-known, Memento is not the only film to tell its story backwards.
Films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind have also done the same, and even P.S. I Love You has a string of scenes shown in reverse.
13. Not everybody enjoyed it the first time around
You’d think Memento’s reverse psychology would’ve won everyone over, but not so.
Unfavourable reviews were rare, but did exist, with Sean Burns of the Philedelphia Weekly writing:
“Memento is ultimately an ice-cold feat of intellectual gamesmanship. The film itself fades like one of Leonard’s temporary memories.”
14. It’s impressively authentic
You might not realise it, but Memento is actually highly authentic in its portrayal of anterograde amnesia: the form of memory loss that Leonard suffers from.
Many medical experts have cited the film as one of the most realistic and accurate depictions of the disease in cinematic history. Physician Esther M. Sternberg said the film was as “close to a perfect exploration of the neurobiology of memory.”
15. There are plans for a remake… for some reason
Why Memento needs a remake is far beyond us. Sure, it outperformed its low-budget considerably upon its original release, and has gone on to be a cult hit, but it stands on its own merits.
Back in November of last year, AMBI Pictures announced a remake that would “stay true to Christopher Nolan’s vision and deliver a memorable movie that is every bit as edgy, iconic and award-worthy as the original”.