Monday, 1 February 2010

22 - Remember Sammy Jankis

Memento is one of those films that sticks with you. A film that gets inside your head and fiddles around violently. It's one of those rich tapestries that reveals further detail and depth every time you watch it.

For those who haven't seen it (and therefore haven't lived) it tells the story of Leonard Shelby, a man with short-term memory loss trying to hunt down the man who killed his wife and gave him brain damage. The genius part is that the story is told backwards. We start at the end, then skip to a few minutes before that and so on and so on. These parts are divided by black and white sections told forward in which Leonard tells us all about his condition.

By playing the main story in reverse sequence we get brilliant moments of perspective shift. One such scene starts with Leonard staring at a bottle of liquor in his hand. He remarks that he doesn't feel drunk and so hops in the shower and a moment later a stranger enters the apartment and a fight ensues. The story then skips back and we see that Leonard has broken into this man's apartment, waiting to ambush him. He grabs a bottle as a weapon, then his memory fades...

In terms of playing with the chronology of the story, it's done perfectly. I'm always a little wary of stories that mess around with time, but Memento wouldn't work if it didn't. Pulp Fiction is another story told out of sequence that works better for it.

Then again there's a shit heap of films that try it and fail. The list of films that begin at the end then work back up to that point is countless. Sometimes it works, often it adds very little.

I've never played around with chronology myself. I believe there has to be a reason for it like in Memento. That and I'm not competent enough to cope with it.

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