A PennTags Project by mpopova
Armstrong applauds Christopher Nolan's daring sense of experiment in Memento, and at the same time recognizes the rich tradition of film Memento aspires to. Nolan.s film, the author argues, is in some ways similar to definitive works like Citizen Kane, Double Indemnity, The Underneath, The Usual Suspects, Somewhere in the Night and Don.t Look Now, but also belongs to a distinctive line of genre cinema. Armstrong calls Memento .the logical end game of the amnesic strain of American film noir,. presenting the traditional anxieties of film noir.s male protagonist seeking self-actualization, while also exploring the American status quo. Armstrong points out the striking similarities between Memento and Joseph L. Mankiewicz.s 1946 film Somewhere in the Night, stressing that Leonard belongs to the same essential strain of the damaged, alone, and confused noir protagonist. Memento further reflects the noir genre tropes by echoing the historical resonances of the dangerous women of film noir. These alluring, intelligent and often manipulative female characters often propel the film through their own questionable agendas. In Memento, .pal-cum-lover. Natalie is more than reminiscent of the noir woman as she helps Leonard only to later reveal she needs him to murder someone for her in return. But Memento, Armstrong argues, uses the noir genre tropes in more deeply philosophical ways than just propelling the narrative and building suspense. The film explores the consequences of the relationship between an individual.s point of view or agenda and the objective neutral world that individual exists in. Armstrong also examines the more cinematically self-reflexive qualities of Nolan.s film as it toys with the distinction between the literal and the symbolic. The protagonist becomes the literally walking wounded, mutilating his own body by tattooing queries of his drive for vengeance. At the same time, the film also plays with the audience and its processing of the plot, .encouraging the cinephile habit of .scanning. . making notes about a film as it unfolds.. Finally, Armstrong argues that, unlike the noir protagonist, Leonard becomes the .anti-detective. as the more he investigates the crime, the more he implicates himself. The truth, then, amounts to nothing but one.s own point of view, complete with subjective knowledge and self-protecting fantasies.
Hibbs examines the philosophical and moral themes in Christopher Nolan's films Memento and Insomnia as they relate to the concepts of truth and truthfulness as well as to classic film noir. The author argues that Nolan is one of today's most talented and thoughtful screenwriters, preoccupied, not unlike other contemporary filmmakers, with the thematic and stylistic features of film noir. Hibbs notes that noir, more than any other American film genre, lends itself to exploring the philosophical connotation of personal identity, the allure and dangers of autonomy, and the role of truthfulness. In Memento, Nolan dramatizes the conflict between wish fulfillment and truthfulness, illustrating the cost of merging fantasy and reality. Hibbs further examines Nolan's films through the prism of the work of British analytic philosopher Bernard Williams and his exploration of the tension between the pursuit of truthfulness and the doubt that there is really any truth to be found. Nolan's Williams-like attention to the moral value of everyday truth is also examined in comparison to David Lynch's work, including Blue Velvet, Lost Highway and Mulholland Dr., which repudiates the nobility of the protagonist's quest for truth and illuminates the perpetual fluidity of personal identity. Lynch, like Nolan, leaves his audience with no reliable way of distinguishing truth from wish fulfillment and factual narration from fantasy. Hibbs argues that through its reverse chronology, duplicitous characters, unreliable narrator, and its refusal to reveal the truth in its entirety, Memento mirrors Lynch's noir style. Finally, the author points out that while philosophers like Williams question whether self-deception is possible and what its consequences could be, Nolan gives his protagonist this peculiar condition, which makes self-deception not only possible, but extremely dangerous. Rather than subverting truth to wishful self-construction, Memento illustrates the incompatibility and conflict between truthfulness and wish fulfillment.