“Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They’re just an interpretation, they’re not a record, and they’re irrelevant if you have the facts.”
I can’t remember the first time I watched this. I think it was Uni – between 2002 and 2005. I didn’t own it. Having watched the film, I once bought the triple-disc version and then, upon trying it out in the DVD, found the disc was ruined. I brought it back and they had no other ones available so i got a refund. I never bought it in the end and i don’t intend to. It is one of those films people tell you,”you must watch it” as if it ranks next to Casablanca and The Godfather. It doesn’t rank that highly … and I doubt it would be in Top 10’s of 2000 … wouldn’t get into a Top 20 if it came out in 1999 (what a year that was!) but its worth a watch. One of those films I only wish Hitchcock could have watched and I ponder what he would have thought – a good yarn anyway, but I don’t think it is a ‘classic’. Like Dial M for Murder is a good Hitchcock but it is by no means his best. But, because I have been praising the back catalogue of Danny Boyle recently i thought I would rip apart a movie that, personally, I think some people like a little too much.
So we have this completely non-linear storyline but not in any random sense of the word. The lead character, Lenny (Guy Pearce), has short-term memory-loss so we go back in time via the small segments of memory loss. While we do this, there is a running parrallel story shot in black and white which is in chronological order – opposed to the colour sequences that are, memory-segment-by-memory-segment, going back in time over the course of, say, a day. About twenty four hours … maybe a little more (he sleeps twice so … two days?). So, in this reversed-chronological colour strand we additionally see flashbacks to a guy called ‘Sammy Jenkins’ who is quite important…
That does make sense, but you may find that you need to watch the film to understand how the last paragraph makes sense. This construction of the story is a fascinating presentation – leading to a special-feature on some DVD’s to watch the film completely in chronological order or in the combination of non-linear strands – as intended. We know Lenny’s wife was murdered and he lost his memory in the process and he is on the hunt for the killer. We meet other characters also. Two characters who look remarkably like characters from Zion. No other than Cypher-Joe-Pantalioni and Trinity-Carrie-Ann-Moss playing Teddy and Natalie respectively.
As a fan of TV-series 24 it is perhaps not-surprising to note that this film was made a year before the TV-series as you begin to realise that in each segment, akin to each episode of 24, there is a little bit of action – in most cases ending with a cliffhanger – before moving on to the next bit. This keeps you constantly asking ‘eh? whats going on? woo hoo! action! drama! oh, phew, questions answered … [end of segement] … eh? whats going on?’ etc. So, poor old Guy Pearce has some really bad-luck getting himself involved in many little scraps. I am sure, anyone who initially had the idea for 24 could have watched this and seen the scope for how much action and drama and cliffhangers that can be put in place throughout a lots of sequences set over a short period of time. Nevertheless, this is a lot more personal and rough – as Lenny is on his own and has no CTU or FBI to assist him. The fact that he is alone means his trust in everyone else is jeopardized. This, I believe, is the crux – the real centrepoint – of the story. (While talking about 24 for the character Jack Bauer, that is his biggest issue: “you have to trust me!”)
People create stories, they look back on history to stregthen themselves – learn from paste mistakes to move forward. Lenny can’t learn from mistakes because he can’t remember them! Bless him. But, then again, some people ignore mistakes and problems of their past and move on – ultimately making the same mistakes. (SPOILER! As we find out that Lenny literally makes the same mistake, murder (a pretty big mistake the ol’ murder), again and again.)
Structurally, we have some great use of effects as, more often then not, some loud bang (on the door, phone ringing, car crash) or a little note recently written precedes or ends the reverse-chronological segments … that way we know where we are at the end of each section. But then, the music, is so slow … these long drawn out strings by David Julyan seem to want to imtate Bernard Herrman but seem to fall down to sound just boring.
To close, if its not bad enough that I have to accept how Lenny has no personality, I have to add to that the slow music. This could be so much faster but seems to drag on. Lenny’s monotone voice recounting the events in his memory “my god, remember Sammy Jenkins”. YES! I remember him. For Goodness sake. I have had long discussions with some people … you know who you are … about the choice of actor for Lenny. On the one hand he is such a boring protagonist (and you would think a tattoo-clad murderer would be quite interesting) and is the wrong actor to play such a role. On the other hand, he has – pretty-much – no memory so, obviously, thats how he feels. That is his outlook. So it adds to the realism. Its groundbreaking, thats for sure but I always feel when I watch this film that it could have been better -a little tweak here, a snag there would help. Its not either screenwriter Nolan or director Nolan’s fault, but it is somebodies … question is … whose fault?
[I think it is Guy Pearces fault… all that Neighbours training methinks]