Kelleher discusses with Christopher Nolan the inspirations, challenges, and business tactics involved in conceiving, creating, and selling Memento. Nolan stresses the importance of familiarizing his actors and crew with the unorthodox structure of the film and gaining their support of the logic of the piece. The director reveals his obsession with denying the audience the same knowledge that the protagonist is denied, which he achieved by establishing a solid reason why the plot is out of sequence early in the film. He discusses the dynamic between the film and the audience, and the demands it places on the viewer. Due to the incoherent narrative and thematic structure of the film, it requires more attention to detail and a certain degree of cynicism about what is going to be demanded logically, challenging the viewer to try to poke holes in the film. . Nolan also discusses the differences between pitching a mainstream movie to investors and selling a smaller independent psychological thriller. In the latter case, the filmmaker argues, the features of the film that seem risky are actually selling points at the early stage because they distinguish the material its more extreme, daring, and unconventional angles get the project noticed. Kelleher also probes Nolan on how his films compare to earlier classics like Howard Hawks. The Big Sleep and Roman Polanski.s Chinatown. Nolan recognizes such movies as intensely complex to the point of leaving the audience with the illusion of fully understanding the plot, yet completely unable to describe it. He contrasts this to Memento, which had the opposite goal in terms of telling a very simple story in an incredibly complex fashion, leaving the audience with complete uncertainty rather than an illusion of understanding.
In this captivating interview, Creative Screenwriting journalist Daniel Argent speaks with Christopher Nolan about the making of the brain-bending, dis-linear modern noir Memento. Nolan discusses the revelatory nature of his research on memory in the process of writing the screenplay and its existential self-reflexivity in terms of his own thoughts and assumptions. Even with his peculiar memory condition, Memento's protagonist has a subliminal knowledge of things without being aware of how he knows what he knows. Nolan attributes this assumption of knowledge to the notion of instinctive behavior, which the protagonist resorts to in his efforts to continuously and habitually remind himself that he has no short-term memory. Argent probes Nolan on the much-debated question of what the objective truth in the film is, which the filmmaker has repeatedly avoided giving away. Nolan stresses the importance of the audience understanding that he had to have, in his own mind, an idea of what the supposedly objective facts were in order to construct a consistent story that lends itself to multiple subjective interpretations. His intention was to place the audience in the position of someone without short-term memory and remain true to that until the end, unlike many other films that sell out the terms of storytelling towards the end of a film regardless of how daring they've been up to that point. This allows Nolan to create a useful character for highlighting this very human dilemma, providing a profound commentary on the leap-of-faith nature of everyday life. The filmmaker also discusses the challenges of reconciling the protagonist's view of his own condition and the events that actually unfold. Nolan believes this tension brings a more realistic degree of complexity to the situation and to the issues of memory and identity. The director also shares what his days as a cameraman on corporate training videos have taught him about the importance of not lying in film the questionable and the unreliable are only fascinating, he asserts, when they stem from a character's organic reason to be questionable or unreliable. He also points out the liberating aspect of his protagonist's condition, which allows you to forget, as well as makes you forget, enabling him to create comforting half-truths. Nolan also discusses his own peculiarities his upbringing as the double-identity child of parents from two different cultures, his habit of reading magazines back to front as deterministic elements of his relationship with film and storytelling.
Nolan discusses his creative process and his techniques for keeping Memento's complicated plot under control through reordering his writing and using the tight logical filters of his actors. He analyzes the relationship between the screenplay and his brother Jonathan's short story it was based on. Nolan talks about the film's cleverly manipulated promotional website, www.otnemem.com, which was created by his brother and aimed to give audiences a three-dimensional narrative where they can view information in the order that seems the most interesting, following lines of thought by using items and objects from both the film and the short story. The website thus provides a fascinating link between the two works in a way that allows people to make sense of both on their own terms. Nolan also discusses the differences in how he approached the structures of Memento and his 1999 film Following, both of which are non-linear, but while Memento runs backwards, the script for Following was written chronologically and later reordered to fit the structural conceit Nolan wanted. The filmmaker talks about what initially attracted him to the concept for Memento and the metaphorical potential the protagonist's condition provides. He discusses the concept of revenge and how the inability to remember affects it, raising the question of whether revenge exist in any real sense outside of one's own head, or whether it is merely personal satisfaction with no value beyond that. Nolan admits his preference for the noir genre, which allows for more three-dimensional characters based on the historical model of defining a character through action, as opposed to most other film genres where characterization comes through dialogue and narrative. He also argues the noir genre is better suited for the non-linear structure and the audience is more accepting of it this way. Nolan discusses the advantage the thriller writer has over the audience in terms of having a year to write the screenplay, as opposed to the 90 minutes the audience has to digest it. He stresses the importance of understanding and not abusing this advantage, which led him to continually simplify Memento throughout the writing process, avoiding the danger of making the cognitive load of this already incredibly dense film intolerably burdensome for the viewer.