With his backwardly brilliant film noir Memento, director Christopher Nolan took the 2001 Sundance Film Festival by storm. He bagged the Waldo Salt Screenwriting award and would also be nominated for Best Screenplay at the 2002 Oscars. Audiences were similarly enthralled by the story of a man "who is a mystery even to himself" (Guy Pearce), struggling with chronic short-term memory loss while seeking to avenge his murdered wife.
Disc Two of this three-disc package includes a reverse cut of the film where events unfold in chronological order. Presented as an Easter egg along the bottom blue line of the main menu, this alternate version only goes to show that it's the slippery structure which makes Memento such compulsive viewing. Without backwards logic to convey Leonard's sense of disorientation, it loses most of its tension and suspense.
In a fascinating half-hour interview, Nolan talks about playing with the tropes of film noir, the notion of "the unreliable narrator", which first drew him to the story hatched by his brother Jonathan, and the tricky business of finding "a balance between intriguing the audience and confusing them." He elaborates further on these matters in an audio commentary that boasts three separate endings - ironically confusing the listener with different interpretations of Leonard's relationship with Teddy (Joe Pantoliano).
An interview with Guy Pearce is far less interesting through no fault of his own but thanks to an interviewer who poses banal questions like: "Can you tell me who you play?" Pearce does manage to throw in a few deeper thoughts on getting to grips with a character who is essentially a blank canvas, explaining that it was a benefit to him because he works "purely on instinct and intuition." Sadly though, there's not much to chew on between the fluff.
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
The opening execution sequence comes under scrutiny in Anatomy Of A Scene - one edition in a brilliant series of behind-the-scenes documentaries by The Sundance Channel. Everything from casting, cinematography, production design, and editing is analysed by the filmmakers to paint a complete picture of the creative process. You'll also discover what a stickler Nolan can be when he admits to looping a key piece of dialogue himself because Pantoliano, "didn't quite nail it." Shrink with embarrassment for Pantoliano when he's asked about the matter and hesitantly replies, "This is the first I'm hearing about it."
On Disc Three you have the option of watching the film in split screen alongside the shooting script - if you can squint hard enough to read it - or listen to Jonathan Nolan narrate his short story Memento Mori on which the film is based. A selection of photo galleries includes Leonard's Journal that, like the shooting script, proves almost impossible to decipher. It's a surprisingly light batch of extras scattered across three discs, but on the strength of Nolan's interview and the Anatomy Of A Scene documentary alone, Memento: Special Edition makes a lasting impression.
The Memento: Special Edition DVD is out to buy on Monday 27th December 2004.