You are on page 1of 2


Memory's unreliable. Memory's not perfect. It's not even that good. Ask the police. Eyewitness testimony is unreliable. 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. Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) declared the above statements early in the film, Memento, directed by Christopher Nolan. Like what he said, memory is not accurate. It can be defective because it is changeable. It is like a video recorder that can be overwritten. When this happens, information is distorted. Retrieval of the memory would be a mix-up of different and unrelated events. It can also be easily influenced by our thoughts, emotions, and expectations. It is also one primary shaper of our individuality. Who we are is basically defined by the choices that we make. These choices are then governed by our past experiences and our memory of it. All of these were illustrated in the movie in an extraordinary plot. The film had two story lines that progresses in opposite paths in time. It was quite hard for someone like me who have a rather poor memory to encode the scenes in retrospect and try to retrieve it forward in time. In spite of this, I found it remarkable. Leonard, armed with a pocketful of Polaroid snapshots and freaky tattoos, woke up each day with his condition (anterograde amnesia) in pursuit of his wifes killer. Every scene revealed something unexpected about the characters. I found myself tracking the killer with Lenny and drawing different conclusions every time. For instance, when I saw the photo of Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) with the name John Edward Gammell and the license plate matching that of the killer, I deduced that he was the killer. But then, several scenes after, Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss) was threatening to use him, and so I concluded that Teddy was clean. Lenny showed the unreliability of memory through his acquisition of anterograde amnesia when his wifes killer hit the back of his head real hard at the night of the incident. (I found quite implausible. I think it would be better if it was a car accident or a gunshot.) As he describes it, he has no short-term memory. But from our text, it is a memory disorder where experiences after its acquisition are rarely encoded in [our] long-term memory. Thus, it does not necessarily imply the absence of short-term memory. Lennys character, however, illustrates it with his inability to form new memories. Memories are encoded better when it is highly emotional. But then because of his condition, he was not able to encode any of his experiences. In one highly emotional turned comic scene, he was running and suddenly his memory failed him, he wondered what he was doing. Then he noticed someone running with him in a distance so he reasoned, Oh, Im chasing that guy. He started running towards the

guy who then started shooting at him so he realized, Oh, no, hes chasing me. Another inconvenient thing was that he couldnt even recognize the people he meets regularly, namely, Teddy, Natalie and the hotel clerk. He did remember, however, the events that took place before the incident. And the last thing he remembers was his wife dying. Losing his memory amounted to losing his self-identity. He was so driven to find his wifes killer and he lived only by that ever since. He thought if he could do it, it would stick. Hed somehow feel it. But he didnt. People around him are starting to make fun of him and manipulate him. Natalie had him kill Dodd and Teddy had him kill Jimmy. And the worst thing, he had him hunt and kill Teddy. I wondered if my memory was really that fragile and whether I can still trust it. As Ive thought of the film, my mind was filled with tons of questions. Why is he on the loose if he has such condition? Why isn't there anyone taking care of him? Unlike Sammy who was sent to an asylum as he put it. And I also wondered if his wife really had diabetes like Teddy said. If that is so, why cant he remember? Since it was too long ago before the incident, it must have probably been permanently encoded already. Was it that his conditioned altered it? If his wife never really died from the incident but had died from overdose the way he narrated it as Sammys wife, how was he able to remember it and translate it to Sammys wife when it had happened after the incident?