Memento as a War Movie

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“What's too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget.” They are lyrics from the song “The Way We Were.” It is a simplistic thought that has been made many times throughout the course of time. It is a philosophy that many people have lived by for ages. The blocking out of traumatic events is done by the best of us and it utilized prominently in war movies. A one-sided view point is the only way to create a plot. As the erasure of memories is used in war movies, it can also be seen by Leonard Shelby in Memento. Through this idea, I will prove that Memento is a type of war movie. Jonathan Romney clearly summarizes Memento as an “at-heart film noir in classic 1940s vein -- the story of a man investigating his wife's death. True to form, there is a mysterious femme fatale and a sly, ambivalent character who could be friend or foe. The first twist is that the hero and narrator, Leonard, suffers from short-term amnesia and forgets things almost as soon as they happen. The second twist is that the story is told backwards -- it starts with Leonard getting his revenge and taking a Polaroid to prove it to himself.” Romney’s outline of the story describes the plot. He continues on “But his bullet returns to the gun and the photo fades, then slides back into the camera. This is something more than an echo of the reverse storytelling of Martin Amis's Time's Arrow. Here, it is as if events erase themselves the instant they occur -- which, in Leonard's mind, is exactly what happens.” Romney introduces two of the tricks that Memento uses. The first scene is the only scene of the movie that is actually backwards as Romney explains. It succeeds in establishing the mood of the movie and confusing the viewer. Writer-director Christopher Nolan draws the viewer into Leonard’s world with this confusion and the syntax of the story. Romney goes on to describe this syntax like this: “[The audience] start[s] off in [Leonard’s] position, as much in the dark as he is. But the more we learn, the more he forgets. And whenever we think we know more than he does, some new enigma comes along to redress the balance. A bizarre narrative construction keeps us shifting in and out of focus. Each section of the main story begins in mid-action, so that we do not know what is happening any more than Leonard does…To make things more complex, another strand, apparently chronological, is inter... ... middle of paper ... ...tures. One of this winter's mostly eagerly awaited releases is Lord of the Rings, based on J.R.R. Tolkien's brilliant books about warfare and other adventures in a mythological Middle Earth realm. Fans may not pigeonhole these as war films, but part of their appeal comes from their place in a long tradition of war-centered fiction stretching back at least as far as Homer, whose Iliad and Odyssey have been cited as sources for Apocalypse Now and other combat films. It is sometimes seen in movies that they do not own up to being a true war movie, but there is a basic sense of what a war movie is. In The Things They Carried , novelist and Vietnam vet Tim O'Brien wrote that “if at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been the victim of a very old and terrible lie. As a first rule of thumb, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil. You can tell a true war story if it embarrasses you.” That is Memento; a movie that exposes all of the realities of its own story and leaves the audience ashamed of rooting for their fallen hero.
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