Skip to main content
The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Film
  • Andrew Kania, Trinity University
Document Type
Contribution to Book
Publication Date
The sleeper hit Memento (2000), directed by Christopher Nolan, is a brilliantly structured contemporary film noir, focused through the main character, Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), who has a debilitating memory condition. Hit on the head during a home invasion – "the incident" – Leonard can remember his life as an insurance-claims investigator before the incident, but he cannot form new long-term memories. Thus, every fifteen minutes or so, he becomes a partial tabula rasa afresh. The audience comes to understand this condition through Leonard's recounting the story of Sammy Jankis (Stephen Tobolowsky) in order to explain his own condition to others and to himself. (Sammy, who suffers from a similar condition, was the subject of one of Leonard's pre-incident investigations.) One of the main narrative drives of the movie is Leonard's quest to find "John G" – the mysterious second assailant in the incident, who supposedly raped and murdered Leonard's wife – and to exact his revenge by killing him.
Paisley Livingston, Carl Plantinga
Citation Information
Kania, A. (2009). Memento. In P. Livingston & C. Plantinga (Eds.), The Routledge companion to philosophy and film (pp. 650-660). London, England: Routledge.