Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Memento Memories - We too keep notes!

OK. So what am I doing?
Oh, I'm chasing this guy.
No. He's chasing me.
Ah! Fuck!
I have this condition.
A condition?!
It's my memory.
No, no, it's different from that. I have no short-term memory.
I know all about myself, I just...
Since my injury I can't make new memories. Everything fades.
If we talk for too long I'll forget how we started...

For any movie maniac, this would ring a bell. Memento for many, Ghajini for few.

Just for the un-initiated, Memento is a 'must watch' psychological thriller film written and directed by Christopher Nolan, adapted from his younger brother Jonathan Nolan's short story "Memento Mori". The movie later inspired one of the greatest bollywood blockbuster - Ghajini (the Ghajini hair cut, though was original bollywood creation).

This is not a movie review, but a reflection of the movie that fell on me.

The movie is about Leonard Shelby who believes in his life through notes, Polaroid photographs with caption and permanent tattoos on his body. Since he has short term memory or practically doesn't remember anything and anybody, he trusts his instincts, handwriting and tattoos.

'You really need a system if you're gonna make it work. You kinda learn to trust your handwriting... ...where you put them is really important. You need a jacket that's got, like, six pockets... You just kinda learn to know where things go and how the system works...'

Don't we all write notes? In the corollary, don't we find people who doesn't write notes inefficient and often forgetful workers. Don't we consider 'Post-it Notes' as one of the world's most innovative products? Don't we find ourselves a bit lost if the minutes of the meeting are not circulated or noted?

The only difference being that Leonard Shelby had too short a memory. We all have short memories and some reference memories.

The movie makes a great statement on belief systems, instincts and intuition. Its all about self belief about what you perceive in life.

...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...
I have to believe that when my eyes are closed, the world's still here...

We too know so little about the world in spite of being scientifically so advanced to send men to space. The only option is to have faith and belief.
Its believed that medical science only knows only 20% about the human body. There are innumerable diseases that the medical fraternity calls 'Auto-immune Diseases', which in simple words imply that we don't know the cause and cure. We know so little about what's going to happen in the next instant.

We have created technology to fill ourselves with documented knowledge - wikipedia, google, blogs, libraries et al. But can we read, understand and assimilate all of that in one life-time to understand life,... to understand ourselves.

Am I really sure that the laptop with its lithium battery wont burst on my lap while I write this blog? Its all about my belief that's making me continue to keep the laptop on my lap

So what we do is we believe in our instincts and strengthen them through daily conditioning. Its about habits that we pick up from our childhood and the culture that we come from. We have to accept them and be happy with ourselves. One life time is too short to keep thinking of changing for the better, especially when it is difficult to understand 'what is better'

Conditioning didn't work for Sammy, so he became helpless.
But it works for me.
I live the way Sammy couldn't.
Habit and routine make my life possible.
Conditioning. Acting on instinct.

The movie beautifully portrays that this system of belief, instinct and intuition can be strengthened by conditioning and has to be complimented by past memories (references). Otherwise the system will shake and dis-integrate. We have to remind ourselves about who we are.

Today, in our busy lives, we tend to forget who we are, where did we come from and why we are wherever we are. Its about an un-ending desire for progress and material success accumulating stress, anxiety and confusion in the process. We forget our objectives, about why we started the journey and instead create newer objectives.

We all need memories to remind ourselves who we are.
I'm no different.

Leonard Shelby could keep his single mindedness because of his systemic notes that he either tattooed or written on Polaroid photographs. Everyday the first thing that he reads is 'Remember Sammy Jenkins' which is tattooed to his left upper arm just by the side of his thumb. That statement starts his process of understanding his life, his condition, his purpose and therefore deciding on his next move.

We are not so fortunate. We don't have a trigger to start the process of understanding life everyday. And we end up our days scampering like rats.

The best part of Memento is that Leonard Shelby can choose to not remember a few details in his life. He starts every day with a clean slate with no hatred, biases and pre-conditions. Morever, he can choose to not write notes about something that he may repent in the future. He can choose to forget. Today, most of our sadness and depression is about the memories of our past.

We may not remember the minutes of an important meeting, but we would surely remember our sad moments, failures, humiliations and bad relationships. Some memories are best forgotten but we cant help it.

We have to let go of some of our past. Even if it means 'no learning from that past', it's worth it.

To cut long story short, Memento is an amazing insight and perspective on memory, instincts and conditioning behaviour. A must watch for an healthier outlook towards life.


  1. i m in awe after reading you!
    I am glad I watched momento and ghajini! momento first!

    and while i was a little scared - i somewhere wanted to have the memory shelby had and aamir had - just keep notes, look back and keep them away because they practically dont effect my memory much ... like my wishes dont fly and come true - my memory is going to stay with me for a very long time :)

    Momento is definitely a worthy watch!

  2. Thanks. I am in awe of you too. So much you do, think and write.

  3. A very nice read !!

    Memento leaves an indelible impression on our minds, and its nice to know how the film effects you in its own terms.

    Its quite an intersting observation that we all have been suffering from partial Amnesia. We do keep notes or else, we thaink and believe ourselves to be disorganised, lazy or whatever we can think of. At least We are all conditioned like that and finally we actually forget where we started and what we started for.

    Please continue your interesting observatios !

  4. Anonymous2:42 PM

    hey heartiest apologies.!

    but i did so, because i simply felt exactly the same way.

  5. how did u remember the dialogues so exactly????? were u watching it while u were writing this blog? its generally pranjal and me who remember dialouges....

  6. No I didnt steal your memories. I simply read the script. I have the scripts of Before sunset and before sunrise too. They are also mindblowing...

  7. Very well written... Concept wise, as well as the flow of writing is Amazing.. the dialogues have been inserted at just the right moment...


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