What do you love about film noir

15 years of Memento - this is what makes Nolan's Film noir unique

Memento appeared in German cinemas 15 years ago. A film that is still more than "just" a detective story with a brilliant narrative trick.

Beware, spoilers for Memento follow:

At the beginning of his film there is death for life's sake. Christopher Nolan's (Interstellar) noir thriller Memento started in German cinemas exactly fifteen years ago. And even today it is much more than the external perfection of a story that only seems complicated at the beginning. Embedded in a basically quite simple detective plot, it is precisely this that catches our eye most effectively with its precise revolution of typical narrative patterns.

A simple but ingenious trick was enough to establish Mindfuck as one of the best films of the 21st century. Mindfuck? Not really. Many a Christopher Nolan's film appears at most at first glance to be a cryptic puzzle that needs to be deciphered. In doing so, they follow a stringent internal logic, the only requirement of which is acceptance.

No, it is not the so-called, far too often quoted mindfuck that gives Memento its absorbent depth, although its narrative flow of two gradually converging storylines unfolds a tremendous pull, including outstanding twists and emotional peaks emerging from the narrative. Memento speaks to us where we are most vulnerable: in the construction of our own world. It is, in the truest sense of the word, a film about life and death, love and the inability to overcome the comfort of our self-imposed limits.

Murder, murder over and over again

At the beginning of the story we look at a close-up of a Polaroid, which apparently shows a corpse in the middle of a white, blood-smeared room. It should later turn out to be an omen-like symbol of the protagonist, us. In the following scene, Nolan already reveals the end to us: the main character Leonard (Guy Pearce) shoots the initially opaque teddy (Joe Pantoliano), who suffered from ekmnesia (massive reduction in the ability to remember new content of consciousness) who was raped and murdered his beloved wife ( Jorja Fox) suspected. The beginning of the film ends with a rewind effect and cuts on narrative level two, which takes place almost exclusively in the room of a motel and is only broken up by flashbacks. In short: Nolan immediately establishes his construct of the backwards and forwards narrated plots in his usual way in clearly defined imagery.

Just like the Brit in Inception, who is identical twin Mementos in many respects, separates his dream levels from one another primarily through their different setting, here it is the contrast between color and black-and-white photos. In doing so, he takes a risk right at the beginning of his story: anticipating the end, the murder, for an investigation that we are to embark on with Guy Pearce is a bold undertaking. How are we supposed to cheer despite the early dissolution? Answer: exactly because of that! Here Nolan not only proves his early narrative qualities, but the film shows its even greater impact in the discourse with and about us.

Because the deeper we go into history, the deeper it infiltrates our existence. The Trip Mementos, which allows Leonard's extremely limited short-term memory to be experienced, dissolves time and space: "How am I supposed to heal my wounds if I don't feel the ... time?"Leonard asks himself in a soul-searching of cautious self-knowledge. His subsequent or already committed acts negate the question and thus its answer. His story is one of failure and torpedoes the idea that a narrative needs a catharsis of redemption. Leonard never achieves this ultimate goal, because he always builds his own world anew. Always the same, caught in a constant recurrence, a repetition of things.

The building "I"

Although at the end of the film he learns the truth about his existence, he chooses the lie of the desired "me". Teddy was Leonard's only companion the whole time, a friend who wanted to give him another moment of joy, through retribution, and then supported him in eliminating a drug dealer who was insignificant for his life and had nothing to do with the attack on his wife . Because he was the policeman who was assigned to his case over a year ago and who tracked down the real culprit. Hoping that Leonard would calm down after quenching his thirst for revenge, he left the killing to him. Flooded with knowledge for a moment, Leonard decides to re-establish his lie and writes, while he is still carrying the new memory, on a photo of Teddy's: "Don't believe his lies." Moments later, his bittersweet knowledge of the truth gives way to the ink-soaked pinpricks in the tattoo studio, which he visited again and again, as revealed by his body, which was marked with alleged references to the perpetrator. And will continue to seek. Because there will always (have to) be a "perpetrator".

Here Christopher Nolan finally unfolds his existential reflection on film. Certainly his Leonard is an expression of an extreme, but this presumed exaggeration enables us to abstract it to our lives by asking ourselves: can he not different? Can we not different?

Memento is pure constructivism, the most radical form of which assumes that an objective truth does not exist, since each individual assembles his world and thus his existence in his head. We give meaning to ourselves and to our position in the world. With the difference that we don't go over corpses like Nolan's film character. We lie (especially to ourselves) and strive to repeat the things that make us happy. But also for those who seem just as conscious to us as obvious mistakes.

Where the thematically very similar Inception got lost in a dichotomy between the original idea and the increasingly diluting elements of conventional action cinemas, his brother Memento, who was ten years younger, thought to the logical end, which should not end in any redemption.

The film still stands out today, telling timelessly, as a masterful early work by Christopher Nolan, following the will of the director: I want you to follow your reality.