Study Guide

Memento Director


Christopher Nolan

The Man Of The Hour

If you haven't heard of Christopher Nolan… well, then you probably haven't been to a theater in the last decade.

Nolan has been rocking the box office with huge successes like his Batman Trilogy, Inception, and Interstellar. He and his films have received numerous awards, and he's often been considered one of the premier filmmakers of our time. Not too shabby, Nol.

The secret to his success? Huge hits that are financially successful but that don't stoop too low. There's a complexity—and more than a touch of darkness—to Nolan's films that seems to break down the barriers between "blockbuster" and "high art." This dude creates films that are intellectually stimulating while still giving us the big "whoa!" moments that make mere movies into summer smash hits.

Style And Influence

But what are Big Chris Nolan's movies about? Well, assuming you've seen Memento (if you haven't, why are you reading this? Go watch it!), then you've already had a pretty good taste of what Nolan's cinematic mind has to offer.

One recurring Nolan specialty is nonlinear story telling. Memento is definitely the king of this, but we also get a taste in The Prestige and Inception (and maybe Interstellar…but time in that one gets a bit tricky). Nolan has cited films like Swift's Waterland and Tarantino's Pulp Fiction as sources of inspiration for narrative structures that defy chronology.

Nolan's films also always consist of super morally ambiguous characters. From Inception's Cobb to Batman's Batman (and, of course, Memento's Leonard), Nolan's characters are never simply "good" or "bad." These characters are wading through a world that Nolan makes real. And, because these worlds are so chillingly real, these characters act human… they're all bristling with moral complexity.

The Brothers Memento

So Memento is based on a short story called Memento Mori, authored by Christopher Nolan's brother, Jonathan. But this is way more complicated than just a bit of brotherly adaptation.

In 1996, Jonathan pitched the idea of Memento as a film to his big bro, who liked it. Jonathan sent a first draft to Christopher and then both of them developed their version of the story collaboratively, sharing their ideas and progress. So it's not your traditional adaptation… it's more like two different versions of the same story told in different media types.

If fact, the stories (while both are about a man suffering from anterograde amnesia seeking vengeance for his wife) are pretty different. Earl, the short story protagonist, is in a mental institution, which he escapes. The narrative is told linearly and ends with him getting the revenge he sought.

The crazy backwards chronology was, in fact, Nolan's twist to his brother's original idea, but his brother also helped in him co-author the screenplay (and actually co-writes many of Nolan's screenplays like The Prestige and both Dark Knight movies).