“This fragmented and non-linear narrative structure creates a sense of reflexivity between the reader and the protagonist…” – Extracts from a script report by our trainee Eirini Papadaki, based on a reading of MEMENTO found online at on The Daily Script website: CLICK HERE to read the script.
Title: MEMENTO FORM: SP
Author: Christopher Nolan Pages: 140
Date: 18/04/16 Locale: US
Genre: Mystery /Thriller
Leonard Shelby (M/ approx. 30), former insurance investigator, after being attacked on the head by an assailant, suffers from anterograde amnesia, tries to avenge his wife’s death.
Sammy Jankis (M/ 58), former semi-retired accountant, after a car accident suffers too from anterograde amnesia.
Natalie (F/ approx. 30), a bar waitress, tries to help Leonard in his inquiry for his wife’s killer, manipulates Leonard into killing her former boyfriend, Jimmy.
Teddy (M/ approx. 40), acquaintance of Leonard, tries to assist him in finding the killer of his wife.
Dodd (M/ approx. 30) a drug dealer and associate of Jimmy Grantz
Jimmy Grantz (M/ approx. 30) a drug dealer, former boyfriend of Natalie.
Logline: A man with the inability to create new short-term memories tries to avenge the death of his wife by tracking down her killer.
One night, LEONARD SHELBY, a former insurance investigator, wakes up at his house to find his wife being sexually assaulted into the bathroom. While he manages to kill one of the assailants, a second one knocks him on the head and escapes. As a result of the head trauma, Leonard suffers from severe anterograde memory dysfunction, a condition in which he cannot form new memories; he can only remember his life up to the point of his wife’s attack.
Without the ability of having a short-term memory and consequently an inability to also create new long-term memories, he dwells on his past by focusing all his energy and life on finding the second assailant in order to take revenge for his wife’s rape and murder. In order to remain focused and organized in his investigation, he continuously takes notes and Polaroid pictures of everything and anyone and even gets tattoos on his body with the most important “facts”. Through his investigation, he meets NATALIE and TEDDY, who take advantage of him and trick him into murdering Jimmy, a drug dealer and former boyfriend of Natalie.
An important aspect of the screenplay is that there is also a sub-plot that plays a significant role to the main plot line. SAMMY JANKIS, a man that Leonard investigated before his wife’s murder, had also anterograde amnesia. However, during the investigation, it was presumed that his condition was only psychological and the company denied his claim for insurance. Sammy’s wife was unable to accept that her husband was brain damaged and repeatedly found ways to test him.
In her final attempt, she asked him to give her insulin shots, since she was a diabetic, which led to her falling into a coma after her husband wasn’t able to remember what he was doing. Leonard keeps on talking about Sammy’s case and has a tattoo on his left hand “remember Sammy Jankis” in order to never forget about him…?
The structure of the screenplay consists of 22 colour and 22 black-and-white sequences that are written in a reverse chronological order. Whenever a colour scene ends, it is connected to the preceded one, but is usually shown from a different perspective. The black-and-white sequences that intervene the colour ones -which have occurred in the past and thus, are in black-and-white, are flashbacks of the sub-story of Sammy Jankis – are in normal chronological order and not reversed.
This fragmented and non-linear narrative structure creates a sense of reflexivity between the reader and the protagonist; like him, the reader has to gather evidence step by step in order to find the killer. In each colour scene, one has to be placed in the position of a detective, like Leonard does, in order to discover new information about the case. This structure also provides the reader with an idea of how the protagonist’s mind and memory actually works.
The script makes use of extended narration throughout. However, depending on the sequence, the context and person of the narration changes. In the colour sequences, Leonard is either narrating his thoughts… or “reads” out loud his notes/tattoos and captions of his Polaroid pictures. In the black-and-white sequences, he narrates the story of Sammy Jankis.
His thoughts help the reader understand how and what he’s feeling during these scenes and also help in his character’s development and the progression of the narrative. In the protagonist’s narration of Sammy, we receive information about anterograde amnesia and how his condition is different from Sammy’s.
MEMENTO’s script is smart and imaginative… an original story that requires the full attention of the reader… in order to follow Leonard’s quest and understand what is happening. This task gets even harder at the end of the script… where it is not certain whether Leonard’s ‘memory’ of Sammy Jankis is real or a mix-up of his memories and Jankis’s.
…The supporting characters might seem insignificant or undeveloped at the beginning but this is another element that is combined with the fragmented structure in order to create the impression of the condition of Leonard.
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