Saturday, May 24, 2014
"Memento" Opening Scene Analysis
“Memento” s (2000) opening scene begins with slow, melancholic music. Leonard’s (Guy Pierce’s character) hand slowly fades in, is shot in color, and is shown in the frame holding a polaroid picture. The picture is of a dead body, faced down, and the walls are covered in blood. He waves the polaroid picture to help dry/develop it (even though the picture is shown to be completely developed), but when the picture is back in the frame, it looks slightly less developed than it did 10-12 seconds prior. This is when the viewer notices something isn’t “right”. Leonard shakes the picture a total of four times, with a 10-12 second interval in between each time, until the picture is a light gray and no longer visible. You realize the entire scene is being played backward. We now see Leonard’s series of backward motions, appearing as if he’s putting the polaroid back into the camera, the flash of the camera goes off after taking the picture, his face has splatters of blood on it, the scene then cuts to show a river of blood shown on the ground flowing backward, cuts again to show a bullet casing, cuts again to show broken, bloodied eye glasses, then the body that was pictured on the polaroid, lying face down on the ground and covered in blood. The camera cuts back to Leonard as his gun is mid-air, flying back into his hand and makes a loud clacking sound, then he kneels down. The music turns suspenseful. The bullet casing is shown again, this time it’s spinning on the ground, the glasses come off the ground and back onto the body’s face as it’s rising off the ground, the casing quickly goes into the Leonard’s gun’s barrel, the shot fires back into the gun, and we now see the body’s face as he turns to look at Leonard, which ends of being Teddy (Joe Pantoliano’s character), and screams “No!” The camera quickly switches onto the next scene, which is shot in black in white this time, and the first scene in this sequence is of Leonard’s lips, slowly panning up to his eyes, as you hear him having an internal dialogue saying “So where are you?” You’re in some motel room. You just wake up…and… you’re in a motel room. There’s the key. It feels like maybe it’s just the first time you’ve been there, but, perhaps, you’ve been there for a week, three months… it’s… kinda hard to say, I don’t know… it’s just an anonymous room…” all while he looks around, he looks confused and observant of his surroundings as he’s sitting on the bed. Then the scene cuts out. These two scenes and how they were carefully shot, edited, and played, play an extremely important role into understanding “Memento”. The unconventional backward play of the opening scene is key, and the polaroid scene is a dead giveaway, and then made even more obvious when the rest of the sequence is played. However, why is this scene shot in color, and the following is completely different in location, and is now in black and white? The only way to make sense of it is watching the film in its entirety. Scenes are played and alternate between black and white and color, and don’t follow chronologically. This is when you realize the entire film can be broken down to 22 colored scenes, and 22 black and white scenes. The 22 colored scenes are all being played backward, not in motion, but backward chronologically, while the black and white scenes are played chronologically. This is why the first two scenes are important, especially the first one because while it is being played in backward MOTION, it is a huge clue into understanding that every color sequence that precedes is playing backward (chronologically). "Memento" is an incredibly well thought-out, amazing movie.