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The Ingenuity of Narrative in Memento

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The Ingenuity of Narrative in Memento

Abstract: Narration, simply put, is telling stories. However, the way movies narrate tales is not like that of novels developing plot in words or drama unfolding in stage space, but has its own special method for narrative - moving images. In Memento, through its unique nonlinear narrative structure and intense structure contradiction, the motifs of memory, self-deception and revenge and the philosophical exploration of existential angst are demonstrated in an elaborate and subtle way.

Key Words:
Memento narrative structure narrative contradiction

Memento recounts the story of Leonard Shelby, a man with anterograde amnesia, who distorts his own memory to deny the harsh reality in a both conscious and unconscious way. Living in a world full of lies fabricated by himself, the ill-fated protagonist makes the very principle of his life consist in the pursuit and systematic exercise of the revenge for his wife’s death which is actually caused by himself. In Memento, the splendid way of narration gives audience not only indelible psychological experience, but also a test on their ratiocination. Below is the analysis of narrative advantages in Memento from aspects of narrative structure and narrative impetus, compared with novels and dramas.
I.Narrative Structure Narrative structure is the structural framework that underlies the order and manner in which a narrative is presented to a reader, listener, or viewer. Compared with novels, movies generate more intense mental penetrating power and stronger artistic appeal by employing its unique cinematic art - montage. By effectively employing this technique in the movie, <Memento> unrolls a soul-stirring and thought-provoking story before audience’s eyes. Through skilled editing, the movie makes audience a puzzle and gives them an emotional experience of the insecure state of mind Leonard’s disease causes in him. The narrative structure of Memento is extremely genius. The protagonist Leonard only has short-term memory. He even doesn’t know what he was doing several minutes ago. Memory is broken for him. From this point, the movie adopts a fragmented narrative, to give audience a personal experience of Leonard’s splintered life. The fabula is "the raw material of a story, and syuzhet is the way a story is organized[1]. In Memento, the sujet is structured with two timelines: one in color and one in black-and-white. The color sequences are alternated with black-and-white sequences. The latter are put together in chronological order. The color sequences are ordered in reverse. Chronologically, the black-and-white sequences come first and the color sequences come next. In chronological sequences, the narrative space is a hotel room where Leonard is on the phone, constantly telling people the story of Sammy. Audience can get a complete story by linking the black-and-white sequences together. In the color sequences of reverse order, narrative space is relatively open, such as the hotel room, Natalie’s home and deserted bungalow. Although each color fragment runs chronologically, time backspins as a whole. In the end, after Leonard kills Jimmy discarding the photo, the two sequences "meet" at the end of the film, producing one common story. Through editing, the director disorders the memory and establishes the main narrative framework of the film. On the one hand, reverse order and complicated way of narration creates a huge suspense for audience. On the other hand, reverse sequencing forces the audience into a sympathetic experience of Leonard's defective ability to create new long-term memories, where prior events are not recalled, since the audience has yet to see them.

II.The Narrative Impetus - Contradiction In order to finish narration, some force is required to drive the plot development in novels, dramas and films. “Usually, the important characteristic of narrative impetus is desire. “[2] Desire gives rise to purpose and the process of achieving one’s purpose drives the development of narrative. On the surface, in Memento, the main contradiction exists between Leonard’s strong desire for revenge and the great resistance that his disordered and fragmented memory generates. On a deep level, the key contradiction of the whole film is the psychological conflict and struggle in Leonard himself. In his fragmented memory, revenge is the most important thing for him, but after achieving this goal, how does he, with anterograde amnesia, deal with a fundamentally broken world? Why does he live? In the last scene where two narrative lines meet, with the information that it is he himself that kills his wife and Teddy uses him to kill Jimmy, Leonard writes down on the photo “don’t believe him”. In that moment, the contradiction and struggle in him becomes the decisive factor in how the film develops. In the last scene, the voiceover says: “I have to believe that when my eyes are closed, the world is still there.” Faced with fragmented and meaningless life, Leonard chooses to escape reality rather than open his eyes to look at it. He chooses to live in a permanent Samsara of revenge. His decision to blind himself from the reality is the root of the whole development of the narrative and generates the superficial conflicts in the film. Meanwhile, such difficult choice alludes to the theme of the film. His taking out twelve pages on purpose, burning photos after revenge and choosing to target Teddy as his next goal all are his conscious choice to blind himself from the real world. He chooses to continuously look for the murderer in order not to know that he himself kills his wife and thus lessens his sense of guilt and finds his purpose of life. As the voiceover says in the end, “I have to believe in a world outside my own mind. I have to believe that my actions still have meaning even if I can’t remember them… We all need memories to remind ourselves who we are. I’m no different. “ In the end, the film places its theme on the exploration of self worth. What is the purpose of everyone’s life? What kind of actions can be counted as meaningful? This is the philosophical thinking and seeking that the film brings to audience. Placing the key contradiction of Leonard’s inner struggle in the ending part, in the one hand, is the requirement of narrative strategy for the reason that the puzzle is unraveled in the end can generate a sense of satisfaction in audience and form a narration chain;on the other hand, this structure setting sublimates the film and draws a deeper reflection from audience with an open ending. Memento stirs up questions and feelings about the most basic issues of how we experience reality and what memory means human’s existence. In addition to being a puzzle, “Memento” is a philosophical tragedy that considers issues that the same type of movies selfdom touches on. Memento greatly utilizes the flexibility of narrative advantages of movies and use moving images to bring audience a feast for eyes and thoughts. From aspect of narrative structure, the director uses the intertwinement of the line in order and the line in reverse order to finish a narration of splintered pieces memory. From aspect of narrative impetus, on each occasion, the unreliability of his memory and his great reliance on it intensely conflict with each other. And in the ending part, the psychological struggle in the protagonist determines the whole narrative of the film. The setting of both superficial and key contradictions of the film is the key impetus that drives the whole plot to develop.

References:
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fabula_and_sujet
[2]大卫. 波得维尔. 电影艺术——形式风格. 第五版. 北京:北京大学出版社.2003.01: 97

不是故弄玄虚。。。。sb

Some memories are best forgotten.

跟paul broom 心理学上的讲的是一致的

哲学 心理学

如果自欺才能使我快乐,我选择如此的活着

每个人都认为自己的认知和判断才是最正确最可信的,亲眼看过的,记得住的东西就是事实。但其实有多少次,我们发现记忆也会出现误差,甚至记忆才是最大的误导者,自己据理力争无比确信的事实,其实是种错觉。

普遍认为本片最高超的地方在于叙事手法,影片剪辑,montage的运用。

不知道大家上不上rotten tomatoes(简单介绍一下),是有英美专业影评人和观众两部分评分组成。此片均为92!paul broom 力荐的一部影片!
而肖申克/指环王

叙事手法与主题,剧情,悬疑设置的完美结合
而绝非所谓的哗众取宠

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