Film - Memento

Guy Pearce

Remember Memento? It is being remade, only fifteen years after the first one, and Susan Omand has some issues with this...

I seem to be complaining a lot about film remakes recently. Well, I promise I’ll stop when Hollywood quits making them and starts to have original ideas again. News came out yesterday that of the best films of the 2000’s, Memento, is getting a remake, thanks to the film rights of the Exclusive Media Library being acquired by Italian film company Ambi Pictures. It took me all my time not to fill the rest of this article just with the word NO. No. No. No. No. No...

Anyway, if you haven’t seen the original film, WHY NOT? Ahem... it’s the story of Leonard Shelby who confronts two attackers invading his house. He kills one attacker, who has raped and killed Shelby's wife, but receives a head injury, the result of which means he now cannot retain new memories, making it almost impossible for him to remember things from one day to the next. In order to overcome this, and track down and kill the other attacker, which has become his sole purpose, with the help of an old subject from his job as an insurance investigator who also has short term memory loss, he develops a system of notes, the most important of which he tattoos on himself, and uses Polaroid photos to try and help himself to remember events. The rest of the story is difficult to explain as the film unfolds in two directions at once, with chronological events being shown in black and white as the story goes from a starting point in a hotel room, where Leonard wakes up not knowing why he is there and trying to explain his back story to someone on the phone, to the point where Leonard is now, a midpoint of the chronological story, which hinges around a photo, but is actually the end of the film. But these flashbacks alternate throughout the film in chunks of about 10 minutes with flash forward events in reverse chronological order from the end of the story (at the start of the film) to the midpoint (at the end of the film) being in colour. Confused? You will be until you watch it and then you will see, probably after watching it several times in a row, what a masterpiece of film-making it actually is as you experience the actual confusion of short term memory loss by not having seen prior events which affect the story early on until later in the film.

This ability, nay need, for people to watch the film several times over and still glean something new from it is the reason quoted by the film company that it is ripe for a remake but I will give you three, no FOUR, reasons why a Memento remake will just not work.

1) Christopher Nolan.

Rumours abound that Christopher Nolan is not going to be involved with the remake. I mean, come on! Memento IS Christopher Nolan. The original was really the film that made his name as a director. It was his own screenplay adaptation of a short story written by his brother, Jonathan. His fingerprints are all over it, so it’s difficult to see how they can make a creditable remake WITHOUT his involvement in some way. But I totally understand why he wouldn’t want to be involved in a remake. The original film was ranked as one of the best of the decade by many critics and, unusually for a psychological thriller, it received numerous awards including an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay. Why try to improve it? And, if you’re not going to improve it, why bother trying to change it at all?

2) Guy Pearce.

At the time Guy Pearce was not very well known but, although Brad Pitt was first considered for the role, Christopher Nolan chose Pearce in preference to the likes of Aaron Eckhart because of his “perceived lack of celebrity” even though he had done a couple of films by then, including his awe-inspiring role as Ed Exley in L A Confidential. This brave casting really added a lot to the believability of the character, as well as to the cult status of the film in my opinion, and I doubt very much they would be brave enough to go with a non A-lister for Leonard Shelby this time out.

3) The Story

Any kind of update to Memento is always going to be unfairly compared to Inception now, isn’t it? I know, I know, the plot isn’t really the same but the structure is, with its intricate non-linear storytelling , time shifting and ambiguity as well as the themes of loss and memories . Inception even had the same Director of Photography as the original Memento in Wally Pfister, who has worked on a lot of Christopher Nolan’s films and, it seems, they just “got” each other when it came to realising a vision. The cinematography on the original Memento was subtle and sublime, adding to the multi-layering and richness of the Nolans’ story with the use of black and white or colour to signify the chronology of the story, meeting at a point in time at the end of the film. That in itself was genius. Which brings me to my last point...

4) The Photo

Who the hell understands about Polaroid photographs any more?! The whole thing about the fully developed photo fading/undeveloping as the film progresses/regresses is one of the stunning subtleties of Memento. It’s just not going to work with an Instagram guys.

But, I guess, Hollywood in its infinite wisdom will come up with all the answers to this as usual, I will be proved wrong and the remake will be a wonder of technological advancement. I will watch the progress (or regress) of this project (reject?) with interest – and likely a whole lot more “No”ing.

But just remember, if this film remake news isn’t bad enough,... the same buy out of rights mean that Ambi now own the rights to remake Donnie Darko too. Just saying.

Image - Amazon