May’s Movie Review: NOT The Dark Knight

May’s synopsis: Mind-bending and a whole lot of fun, my first true experience with director Christopher Nolan.

May’s rating scale:






May’s warning: This movie is rated R. I watched it about four years ago, and the review is based on my memory (hee, the movie is about memory) and a quick glance at the screenplay today. The rating may or may not affect your decision to see it. It is violent, but not as violent as The Dark Knight, and the F-bombs exceed the requirements for a PG-13 rating.

Earlier today I stated I would wait before reviewing The Dark Knight. Now I feel I’m not up to the task at all. Like, I hardly felt worthy to watch the movie. And my stomach churns every time I think about it. We’ll see how I feel as time passes; it might just stay on backburner.

I thought it would be fun to review another Christopher Nolan work: Memento. This has got to be one of the cleverest, most confusing movies I have ever watched. It was incredible. I had to rewatch it right after my first viewing. Then I had to rewind parts during the rewatch to make sure my brain wasn’t tricking me.

This movie was the first time I’d ever heard of Christopher Nolan. His brother wrote the short story upon which the film is based. It’s about a man getting revenge for the murder of his wife. But this man has no short-term memory, so he takes Polaroids of everything. Everyone. He labels them right away. He writes everything down; the really important stuff he tattoos on his body. He’s extremely organized with all his two-minute segments of cognizance.

I would not necessarily call this a well-written film (even though it is), but very well-structured. There’s not really a whole lot of dialogue, but Guy Pierce’s character repeats himself quite a bit to the other characters, because of his memory condition. Sometimes he wakes up and doesn’t know where he is. His head trauma wasn’t from watching Hancock (lucky him), but from the events related to his wife’s murder.

There are black-and-white flashback scenes used for backstory, but this movie is also about memory as an entity, its very own character. It’s not only about Guy Pierce coping with the loss of knowing what happened two minutes ago, it’s about challenging the viewer and his involvement in the movie; what he remembers or feels he’s supposed to remember.

0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8

Consider the order of numbers above. Imagine an opening scene starting at point 5 and going to point 6. Imagine the next scene starting at point 4, except you don’t know you’re starting at that point until you’ve reached point 5, which you recognize. Then the next scene starts at point 3, and you’ve caught on to the pattern, and you watch until you reach point 4 and you realize the next scene will start at point 2 and go to 3.

The rest of the movie happens in similar fashion, this reverse exposition, this backstitching, until you’re at the beginning of the story, which is near the end of the movie. This is how we get to know the other characters. This is how we make connections between them. The movie leaves us the same puzzle to solve as Guy Pierce, except our Polaroids are live-action.

Pretty fun, eh?

Then Mr. Nolan ties it all together. The editing is seamless. It has to be. The story is excellent, and its incarnation in movie form makes me wonder if I’d seen anything like it before. Most likely not, but honestly and enthusiastically, I don’t remember.

NPR and Notes

I caught a few interesting segments on NPR yesterday:

Fresh Air: Here‘s an interview with Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale, discussing The Dark Knight.

All Things Considered: Here‘s an interview with a 9-year old piano prodigy, discussing his music career so far.

Fresh Air: Here‘s an interview with Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist describing her experience having a stroke, from the inside.

I was going to dive into a review of The Dark Knight today, but I’ve decided against it. Perhaps I should see it again, though it would be just as fair to give my visceral reaction to the movie. I will say this: whatever expectations you have going in, the movie strips you of them. The movie respects you and your intelligence.

I’ll be reviewing something else today.