Exploring Existentialism and the Character Leanord in the Film, Memento

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Exploring Existentialism and the Character Leanord in the Film, Memento

Although Christopher Nolan does not acknowledge any philosophical basis for Memento, the film provides a character, Leonard Shelby, who serves as an example of several aspects of existentialism. Through Leonard, Memento illustrates Soren Kierkegaard's idea of truth as subjectivity, Freidrich Nietzsche's notion that God is dead, and Jean-Paul Sartre's writings on the nature of consciousness.

In Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Kierkegaard differentiates between the subject as the knower, and the world (object) as the known: the only way we know the world is through ourselves. Kierkegaard emphasizes the importance of "how" the subject is related to the truth, and not the "what" (content) of the objective. He asserts that the truth can only exist in the subject, for if it lies in the world, we could never access (know) the truth the way we know ourselves. Kierkegaard explains that we can only discover the truth by turning inward: "passionate inwardness" is essential to finding the truth, as it is the way in which the subject is seeking the truth; the more passion the subject has, the closer she/he comes to the truth. "Passionate inwardness" is fueled by "objective uncertainty": if an individual sees objective proof of her truth, she will become less passionate; however, when she does not find reassurance in the objective, her inward passion will lead her to "the" (her) truth. This paradox relies on the subject believing passionately in the truth that exists in her while believing in a lack of objective support for that truth.

Fridreich Nietzsche writes in The Gay Science "God is dead....And we have killed him," (99, Existentialist Philosophy) referr...

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...f existence before essence is echoed when Teddy tells Leonard that he (Leonard) doesn't even know who he is: when Leonard answers he is his past self, Teddy cautions "That's who you were, not who you've become." While Leonard does not believe it, Teddy reminds him that he is responsible for his wife's death, not the men he tracks down and enjoys killing. Leonard refuses to acknowledge that he is his actions, to which Sartre would say "There is no reality except in action" (316, Existentialist Philosophy). Leonard seems to avoid responsibility for his freedom, most likely because he does see who he has become. Memento is a poignant affirmation that our actions make us who we are and that we are in fact responsible for the choices we make, whether we face our freedom, or flee from our anxiety as Leonard does. Now, where was I...?

Existentialist Philosophy


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