How Does Christopher Nolan’s ‘Memento’ (2000) Present Provocative Ideas About Identity? Essay

How does Christopher Nolan’s ‘Memento’ (2000) present provocative ideas about identity? - How Does Christopher Nolan’s ‘Memento’ (2000) Present Provocative Ideas About Identity? Essay introduction?? Throughout ones life, they will often ask questions about who they are and what their identity is. The obvious ideas of identity covers aspects of; where you were born, family bloodline, ethnic/cultural standing, values and beliefs, religion, etc. However ones personal idea of their identity relies on their past experiences and how that shapes the person they are today. It is what they know about themselves today that secures their continuation of identity over time.

For myself, I see my identity as both American and Australian culturally, historically and socially, however my personality and true self is something that confides within my past memories and experiences that shape who I am to other people but also in my personal life. Provocative ideas about identity is explored heavily within Christopher Nolan’s neo-noir film, ‘Memento’ (2000). The main protagonist, Leonard Shelby suffers “a very particular condition” anterograde amnesia, after someone raped and killed his wife and hit Leonard’s in the head.

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The condition allows him to remember everything that happened before the incident yet it impedes him from making new memories. To deal with his condition he does two main things: takes polaroid photos of people he meets and writes information about them on the photos and tattoos important information on his body to the help him find the man who raped and murdered his wife. When considering Leonard’s condition, its important to note how memory shapes the person we see ourselves as, and instilling a certainty of that identity over the continuity of time. “I have this condition… it’s my memory… I have no short term memory.

I know who I am, I know all about myself. It’s just, since my injury, I can’t make new memories – everything fades. If we talk for too long, I’ll forget how we started. Next time I see you I’m not going to remember this conversation. I won’t even know if I’ve met you before. ” Leonard’s condition is also constructed by the use of non-linear narrative structure and the manipulation of temporal order in which the events unfold in reverse order. The audience is constantly trying to find the missing puzzle pieces to understand the situation he is in, similarly like Leonard.

Leonards recollection of past memories shapes his understanding of who he is. However, is he right in committing these crimes when he has no memory of it at all? His personal identity is shaped by his understanding of who he is and what he’s done in the past. Consider the scene, in Leonard’s car, when Teddy says to Leonard, “You don’t even know who you are”. When Leonard responds that he remembers everything up until the accident and is Leonard Shelby, etc. Teddy states, “That’s who you were. You do not know who you are, what you’ve become since – the incident”.

In one view, the later Leonard would not be responsible for the murder of Jimmy or Teddy as he would not be the same person that committed these crimes. Does this differ from me arguing that I am not responsible for stealing apples as a child, as I have no memory of having done so? Does this mean that I am not the same person as I was at that time? Questions such as these have led many to propose that it is mere contiguity, rather than continuity, of our subjective mental experiences that matter in ascribing identity and responsibility.

That is, as long as I remember being the twenty-something who remembers being the teenager who remembers being the child who stole apples then my identity is secure – and I am responsible for my early crimes. What does the contiguity approach mean for Leonard’s identity and responsibility? Leonard throughout the order of the film has encompassed information about himself, the situation he is in, and vengeance as an incentive for all of this. He acts as a detective in this way and gains knowledge to who he is through the puzzle pieces he has found in finding John G, the man who murdered his wife.

Internal monologue has been used in the opening sequence to provide expository information to the audience to how he deals with his condition and the collective information he has. When considering identity in this way, Leonard is hard boiled to find information about the killer and this leads to learning information about himself. He uses tattoos to inscribe important information, thus proving its importance. “if you have a piece of information which is vital, writing on your body instead of a piece of paper.. ts just a permanent way of keeping a note”. The tattoos in this way are the most vital information he collects and in a way they become what he knows about who he is. With this said, Leonard’s identity is in crisis, as his psychological and moral world is disoriented. Leonard is unable to understand who he is in the present and therefore feels isolated, anxious, meaningless and dead. This is reinforced through the audiences knowledge that his last memory is of his wife being raped and murdered. “its like waking, its like you just woke up”.. that must suck, its all backwards, maybe you have an idea about what you want to do next but you cant remember what you just did” Its as if Leonard is in an existential nightmare that he can’t escape therefore anxiety and isolation come into play. If the same situation happened to me and was struck with anterograde amnesia, I would hope my last memory was positive, if not my identity would be shaped around that whole incident, as it is the last thing that would make any sense to me. To others identity lies within others identify them and the cultural, social and historical aspects that shape who they see themselves.

However, ones personal identification of who they are is something that relies heavily on past experiences and without that one is left feeling isolated. This is similar for Leonard, when asked who he is he replies: “I am Leonard Shelby, I’m from San Francisco”, however he is interjected for that is who he was not who is now. Shelby’s acknowledgement of where he lived and his name is also a clear indication of what he knows about identity when in reality he doesn’t have a clue of who his personal self is. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. http://www. rbphilo. com/memento. pdf

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