Christopher Nolan

Memento - style and story

Interviewed by David Wood

"Following" (1989) was Christopher Nolan's acclaimed low-budget debut. "Memento" is his next film, based on a story by his brother Jonathan.

"Following" had a fantastic critical response. "Memento" is a much bigger film in every way. Was it a daunting experience?

It's really daunting to go from having total control and doing your own little thing to having a financial responsibility with people watching and so on. But to be honest the process was similar and I actually enjoyed it a lot. It was all the things I thought I was good at doing, namely visualising the film as it goes on, only on a bigger scale.

The film feels very intimate. Was this a mood which you were keen to retain from "Following"?

Definitely. "Memento" seemed like a claustrophobic story even when my brother Jonathan first described it to me. We shot the film in 'Scope with anamorphic lenses because I wanted as clear an image as possible to really put the audience in the lead character's head. Once you start playing with the landscape you feel a lot of texture and a lot of intimacy. And the fact that there are very few wide shots, very few long shots, and no establishing shots at all contribute to this.

The film takes a non-linear approach toward narrative.

Film makers should be able to experiment with narrative without alienating the audience and without creating something that's impenetrable. I actually see myself as a very mainstream film maker and always have. Even though you aren't going to get the answers to all of the questions in the film and it is a kind of unsettling film in lots of ways, if you watch it a couple of times it's pretty much all in there. One of the things I've been most satisfied by the film - after having now watched it with various festival audiences - is that it really lives on in people's heads.

Christopher Nolan discusses the themes and performances in "Memento".