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35 Things We Learned from Christopher Nolan’s ‘Memento’ Commentary

Christopher Nolan doesn’t do enough commentary tracks, but here’s one he did.
Memento commentary
Newmarket Films
By  · Published on August 25th, 2011

Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Jeremy Kirk listens to Christopher Nolan talk about his still-excellent Memento.

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See what I did there? This week, we’re hitting up one of the finest pieces of cinema in the last 15 years and hearing from the uber-intelligent man behind it. The film? Memento. The director? Christopher Nolan. In this commentary, you’ll uncover mysteries, technique, and styles the filmmaker put into one of his several masterworks. What you won’t be getting is any information on Dark Knight Rises. Sorry, but me just including that title here ensured 54 more hits. It’s a proven fact. So, without further ado, here is what I learned from listening to Christopher Nolan’s commentary track on Memento. In addition, I also learned a thing or two about my own short-term memory problems. Yeah, I have some trouble remembering things. Like that time I took a picture of Joe Pantoliano’s corpse.

See what I did there? This week, we’re hitting up one of the finest pieces of…Oh, never mind!

Memento (2000)

Commentators: Christopher Nolan (writer, director)

Best in Commentary

“That was the key to the structure, withholding the information from the audience that’s withheld from Leonard, ie. what’s just happened, but allowing them to tap into his desire to move forward and get some idea of what he’s going to do next.”

“Any narrator is potentially unreliable, but this is a narrator who is very clearly unreliable and knows it himself and explains it to the audience. It seemed very essential to represent that to the audience.”

“That was one of the attractions to the story, that you’re going to continually be able to have a moment of discovery, a fresh moment of discovery. You’re continually going to be able to shift gears and be somewhere completely different for the audience.”

Final Thoughts

With soft-spoken, almost flat delivery and a British accent, Nolan sounds exactly like the genius we all hope him to be. Some of the commentary can come off quite dry, particularly since much of it deals with the film’s logic and structure. The Memento commentary seems more from the perspective of its writer rather than its director, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

Just hearing Christopher Nolan talk story design for nearly two hours is engrossing enough. It doesn’t even really need that catch – some might call it gimmick? – with the alternate endings and tiny bit at the beginning where it runs in reverse. But, since it’s in there anyway, it just adds to the captivating experience. Excellent film. Excellent commentary, and I could have listened to four more hours of it.

Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.

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