Memento (film)

2000 film by Christopher Nolan

Memento is a 2000 film about a man's quest to avenge the brutal rape and murder of his wife. Though he is hampered by short-term memory loss, he uses notes, photos, and tattoos to record information that may lead him to a suspect. The film is told out of chronological order, placing the audience in a similar situation as the protagonist.

Now … where was I?
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.
We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are.
Directed by Christopher Nolan. Written by Christopher Nolan from the story by Jonathan Nolan.
Some memories are best forgotten.

Leonard Shelby

  • 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 … now … where was I?
  • I don't even know how long she's been gone. It's like I've woken up in bed and she's not here … because she's gone to the bathroom or something. But somehow, I know she's never gonna come back to bed. If I could just … reach over and touch … her side of the bed, I would know that it was cold, but I can't. I know I can't have her back … but I don't want to wake up in the morning, thinking she's still here. I lie here not knowing … how long I've been alone. So how … how can I heal? How am I supposed to heal if I can't … feel time?
  • Am I chasing this guy? [gunshot] No, he's chasing me.




Leonard Shelby: [Wakes up in Hotel Room] [Starts an Open Dialogue in his head] So where are you? You're in some motel room. You just...You just wake up and you're in a motel room. There's the key. It feels like maybe it's just the first time you've been there, but...perhaps you've been there for a week, three months. It's kind of hard to say. I don't...I don't know. It's just an anonymous room. There's nothing in the drawers, but you look anyway. Nothing except the Gideon Bible which I, of course, read religiously [Chuckles, Sighs]. You know, you know who you are, and you know kind of all about yourself. But just for day-to-day stuff, notes are really useful. Sammy Jankis had the same problem, but he really had no system. He wrote himself a ridiculous amount of notes, but he'd get them all mixed up. You really do need a system if you're gonna make it work. You kind of learn to trust your own handwriting. That becomes an important part of your life. You write yourself notes. And where you put your notes...that also becomes really important. You need like a jacket that's got like six pockets in it. Particular pockets for particular things. You just kind of learn to know where things go and how the system works. And you have to be wary of other people writing stuff for you that is not gonna make sense or is gonna lead you astray. I mean, I don't know, How these people try and take advantage of somebody with this condition. If you have a piece of information which is vital, writing on your body instead of on a piece of paper can be the answer. It's just a permanent way of keeping a note. [Phone Rings] [Leonard Picks it up] Who is this?...

Leonard Shelby: [After answering the phone] You said we talked before. I don't remember that. Yeah, But it's not amnesia. I remember everything up until my injury. I just can't make new memories. So I can't remember talking to you. What did we talk about? Oh, Sammy Jankis. I guess I'd tell people about Sammy to help them understand. Sammy's story helps me understand my own situation. Well, Sammy wrote himself endless amounts of notes, but he got mixed up. I have a more graceful solution to the memory problem. I'm disciplined and organized. I use habit and routine to make my life possible. Sammy had no drive no reason to make it work...Me? Yeah...I got a reason.

Leonard Shelby: [Continuing Phone Conversation] I met Sammy through work. Insurance. I was an investigator. I'd investigate the claims to see which ones were phony. I had to see through people's bullshit. It was a useful experience, cause now it's my life. When I meet someone, I don't know if I've met them before. I have to just look in their eyes and try and figure them out. My job taught me the best way to find out what someone knew was just let them talk and watch the eyes...and the body language. If someone scratches their nose while they're talking, experts will tell you it means they're lying. It really means they're nervous. People get nervous for all sorts of reasons. It's all about context...Yeah, I was good. Sammy was my first real challenge. I'd just become an investigator when I came across Sammy. Mr. Samuel R. Jankis. Strangest case ever. You know the guy's a 58 year old semi-retired accountant. He and his wife had been in this car accident. Nothing too serious. But he's acting funny. He can't get a handle on what's going on. The Doctors find some possible damage to the hippocampus. Nothing conclusive, but Sammy can't remember anything for more than a couple of minutes. Can't work, Can't do shit. The medical bills pile up. His wife calls the insurance company, and I get sent in. Now this is my first Big claims investigation, so I really check into it. Sammy can think just fine, but he can't make any new memories. He can only remember things for a couple minutes. He'd watch TV, but anything longer than a couple of minutes was too confusing...He couldn't remember how it began. He liked commercials, they were short. The crazy part was that this guy who couldn't even follow the plot of Green Acres anymore could do the most complicated things as long as he learned them before the accident and as long as he kept his mind on what he was doing. Now the doctors assure me that there's a real condition called Anterograde Memory Loss, or short-term memory loss. It's rare, but legit. But everytime I see him I catch this look...this slight look of recognition. But he says he can't remember me at all. Now, I can read people and I'm thinking: Bad Actor. So now I'm suspicious and I order more tests. Sammy couldn't pick up any new skills at all. But I find something in my research: Conditioning. Sammy should still be able to learn through repetition. It's how you learn stuff like riding a bike. You just get better through practice. It's a completely different part of the brain from short-term memory. So I had the doctors test Sammy's response to conditioning. Some of the objects were electrified. They'd give him a small shock. They kept repeating the test always with the same objects electrified. THe point was to see if Sammy could avoid the electrified objects not by memory but by instinct. They kept testing Sammy for months, always with the same objects carrying the electrical charge. Even with total short-term memory loss, Sammy should have learned to instinctively stop picking up the wrong objects. All the previous cases responded to conditioning. Sammy didn't respond at all. It was enough to suggest that his condition was Psychological, not Physical. We turned down his claim on the grounds that he wasn't covered for mental illness. His wife got stuck with the bills, and I got a big promotion. Conditioning didn't work for Sammy, so he became helpless. But it works for me. I live the way Sammy couldn't. Habit and routine make my life possible. Conditioning. Acting on instinct. Sammy's wife was cripple by the cost of supporting him and fighting the company's decision. but it wasn't the money that got to her. I never said that Sammy was faking...Just that his problem was mental, not physical. She couldn't understand. I mean, she looks into his eyes and see the same person. If it's not a physical problem, he should just snap out of it. So good old Leonard Shelby from the insurance company gives her the seed of doubt just like he gave it to the doctors. But I never said that he was faking. I never said that. But what Mrs. Jankis didn't understand was that you can't bully someone into remembering. The more pressure you're under, the harder it gets...Uh, well, then call me back? [Hangs up the phone]

Leonard Shelby: [Phone Rings] Who is this?...Yeah, Uh-huh. Well, sir, that'd certainly be in keeping with some of my own discoveries. I was hoping for a little more on the drugs angle. Can you hang on a sec?...Now, the police report mentioned the drugs found in the card outside my house. The car was stolen, but his prints were all over it. I got friends in the department. They gave me a copy of it. I dealt with the police a lot in my insurance job. With my condition, it's really tough. I can't keep it all in mind at once. I have to summarize the different sections and there's pages missing. I guess I've been trying to log them all. I don't know why these are crossed out. But they weren't even looking for John G. THe stuff they found in the car just fit in with what they believed had happened, so they didn't chase any of it up.There's something about the drugs stashed in the car that doesn't ring true for me. Because the police claim the guy was an addict needing money to score, which I think is bullshit cause he's not gonna go breaking into places while he's still got a stash that big. Well, I think John G. left it there or planted it there...How do you know that?...Oh, shit, that's true. It fits. So he's a dealer. Hang on a sec. Now we're getting somewhere.

Natalie: What's the last thing that you do remember?
Leonard Shelby: My wife …
Natalie: That's sweet.
Leonard Shelby: … dying.

Leonard Shelby: I don't think they'd let someone like me carry a gun.
Teddy: I fucking hope not.

Leonard Shelby: There are things you know for sure.
Natalie: Such as?
Leonard Shelby: I know what that's going to sound like when I knock on it. I know what that's going to feel like when I pick it up. See? Certainties. It's the kind of memory that you take for granted.

Leonard Shelby: I have this condition.
Teddy: [examining Jimmy Grantz] I hope it's not as serious as this guy, because he's dead.

[Leonard opens the closet door to find a beaten and bloodied Dodd]
Leonard Shelby: Who did this to you?
Dodd: [puzzled] You did!

DVD extras

  • Your life is over. You're a dead man. The only thing the doctors are hoping to do is teach you to be less of a burden to the orderlies. And they'll probably never let you go home, wherever that would be. So the question is not "to be or not to be," because you aren't. The question is whether you want to do something about it.
    • From "Memento Mori", by Jonathan Nolan, as quoted on the DVD


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