It’s all backwards

Chinese boxes? Fuggedaboutit!

Last evening’s session on film analysis went well, and the students enjoyed it too. It made me want to do an entire course on the subject. It also made me want to watch all three movies again.

Of the three, Memento is the one that startled me most when I first saw it. It’s intricately structured and plotted, but beyond this it’s beautifully presented, with a sparse melancholy and occasional absurd humour that strengthen it into something more than a well made puzzle.

It’s also got a fantastic, disorienting first scene that acted as the perfect hook for me. I got the impression that it also did so for the students yesterday; they seemed quite frustrated at me stopping the film after roughly seven and a half minutes. Well, guys, it’s in the department DVD library, I think – and if it isn’t, just pester one of the staff members ’till they get it. After all, someone also got the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the department, which justifies many an additional purchase, I think (Perhaps they could get Crossroads, that Britney Spears movie, scripted by Shonda Rhimes of Grey’s Anatomy fame.)

I liked the effects of reverse chronology in storytelling, if done well. Memento definitely makes good use of having two narrative strands, one in normal chronological sequence, the other one reversed, putting us in Leonard’s shoes: we never know what went before, just like he can’t remember. It’s a structural strategy that’s also highly effective, and moving, in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and in Harold Pinter’s play Betrayal. (I’ve just read that there’s a Seinfeld episode, “The Betrayal”, that has the same structure and makes multiple references to Pinter – gotta see that one!) The focus is shifted from “What happens next?” to “Why did this happen?” I wouldn’t necessarily want my Die Hard or Aliens told in reverse chronology, of course, but every so often I get tired of “What happens next?” – mainly because what happens next isn’t all that exciting.

P.S.: It’ll be interesting to see what sort of visitors the tag list will bring in. Welcome, one and all! Even Britney Spears fans! And aliens, I guess.

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