peter_c wrote:I've asked this question before on another site but no one seemed to be able to answer it. So I'll ask you guys.
If what happened to Sammy actually happened to Leonard, and it was Leonard who gave his wife the insulin overdose, how does he remember giving her the shots?
He couldn't have remembered because it was after his accident. And even if there was a faint chance he remembered the exact moment his wife died, he couldn't have remembered giving her the shots over and over again, because if that was the case, then he would've realized it was fatal and thus not done it.
Your question is the key to braking open the ambiguity of this movie, and just how fucked up Leonard really is.
Leonard says earlier about Sammy that he's physically capable of creating new memories, the block is mental. Being that we later find out that Leonard is Sammy, and it's Leonard telling that memory so of course it's not entirely reliable but does speak to his subconscious, which we know is hiding his guilt in Sammy, it seems to add up that some part of his subconscious is exposing that he's physically fine, and Leonard's lie(s) to protect himself shields him from the truth by makin Sammy the subject. We see deeply into Leonard's mind here, we see the truth having a stated place and clear awareness in his mind, and then the transferring of that truth to Sammy so that Leonard doesn't have to face that he's physically fine, protecting his psychosomatic reality.
The memories of the shots are fundamentally proof of his ability to make new memories, and it's not the only one. Leonard knows that Polaroid pictures can't be torn only burnt, unless he was a pyro pre trauma this is clearly, and terrifyingly, something he's learned post trauma. It implies his memory works all the sudden when it's in service of protecting the lie, and it open endedly insinuates that Leonard has burned many Polaroids, which are his records of people's existence, insinuating he did god knows what, likely murdered, to god knows how many people. Enough of them that he's past trial and error, he's refined.
The key with the wife shot memories are the contrast and the editing. Teddy tells the truth that his wise was diAbetic, and a memory immediately burst through, we see his memory of giving her a shot. Then, we see Leonard say to teddy and this himself that his wife wasn't diabetic, actively denying the truth to protect himself, then we see this memory replayed but he's pinching her instead of giving her a shot, after which he denies the truth Again but with confidence and assurity.
Welcome to leonards terrifying mind. Nolan put is right in his mind for this moment, and we see him decide to deny the truth then purposely change his own memory to hide the truth, and then he moves forward pushing the lie. It's terrifying because it's not just a confirmation but a first class seat to how Leonard lies and changes his own memory to protect his lie. It's scary because while as a moment itself it's not that huge, it establishes that he can and will do that. Once you understand that moment, you know that nothing Leonard says or even remembers can be trusted, the whole film is called into question, ESPECIALLY the trauma he bases his lie around, which btw is itself a memory that shouldn't be possible if his sickness was real, the memory lying on the floor is post trauma and shouldn't be possible.
Memento is just as ambiguous as inception, the difference is where in inception it's open about it, memento gives us a lie or theory with Teddy's monologue, and we're left capable of just accepting that story as a full revelation, which works because accepting that story supports the main idea, lying to protect himself, Nolan is simply giving the audience a facade of a revelation to hold onto so that the point of the story can set in.
But for those who look deeper, the moments discussed above, not to mention the very theme of the film, all say that the truth of what happened is much more mysterious, and likely much more twisted.
There's no way to know the truth, but unlike inception Nolan has stated there are clues and the answer is attainable.
My theory? We know that he physically can make new memories and that something was so emotionally damaging that he chose subconsciously to shut down his ability to record memories instead of remembering this moment. We know it includes his wife in the bathroom, noise comin from there, and a gun. I think his wife was being raped, and Leonard shot the guy right there and then. But he couldn't handle the idea that his wife was raped, and perhaps that he killed someone (that part isn't vital but John g always having been dead makes the film whole in a profoundly dark way). We know the insulin thing killed his wife, and we know he couldnt handle that, that he needed to cover that up.
What I believe is that, first off, the memories of that moment were too dramatic to erase entirely, so he transferred them to another man instead, purposely, and wrote the reminder on his hand to get himself to slowly but surely convince himself that moment was someone else's. The note on his hand is his way of nailing this in.
What about his dead wife? Well there's some disturbing evidence. In the websites files we read about Leonard having no memory of what Leonard's done, and the language insinuates what Leonard did was profoundly disturbing, not just sad. In the movie we get a bizzare and creepy, or a few straight. We get his wife starring at him very alive post trauma, then an image of her post trauma again but her position different, and the shower curtain being put over her. It's an image that has no place in the initial trauma. So what did Leonard do, he couldn't handle what he'd done so he combined what he'd done with the moment he cut off his memory, effectively erasing what happened after. How? He restated the rape, the imagery of it, with his dead wife, implanting that memory to the initial trauma, and making his wife's rape and her later death one moment. He didnt just deny what happened, he staged an alternate reality.
Which, of course, is why John g has to be alive in his mind. He remembers killing someone, the guy doing it, and yet he demands there was a second man (to a raping?!?!). He does this because there was no rapist to kill when he staged his wife's cause of death, so the only possible explanation is that he got away. Combine this with the unreadable memory of in fact killing the rapist, and Leonard decides out of need that there was a second man. In a weird way, the downright bizzare concept of a raping having a second man who was not involved but standing by is a clue, it's weird and convenient because it's a lie.
There are other theories to be had, some based on some sparse but clear images that insinuate he and his wife's relationship was much rockier then he liked to remember (perhaps she wasn't raped but cheating on him, and in his fear thinking its a break in he killed the man, or didnt kill him at all but just couldn't handle his wife cheating on him period).
Im not sure of anything exact but I feel strongly that Leonard staged his wife's death to become one memory in his mind with the trauma, the visual clues heavily hint towards this, an it's the most profound example of the core idea, Leonard actively manipulating his own memory to hide from he truth.
What I do know is that this film isn't simply about a man with amnesia who lies to perpetuate his sense of purpose, all the layered clues hint towards something much darker, this man is physically capable of memories and is a trough and through psychopath, devoting his mind to an alternate reality to hide from the trauma of the truth. It's very similar to shutte island in this respect.
Memento isn't a mystery film about a wounded detective. It's a horror film about a psychopath meticulously creating a false past and reality for himself, becoming a murderer an unknowable about of times to protect his delusion. It claims to be a film about a man with amnesia, it's about a Psychopath who prefers insanity to dealing with reality. The clues are all there, and it all starts with those pesky memories of the insulin shot that couldn't possibly make sense in the films first lie. That's nolan inviting us down the rabbit hole of just how sick Leonard is, and it's a dark dark journey down.