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Memento: A Narrative Analysis Essay

A woman lies dead on the floor; the flash of the reporter’s camera brings us to a darkened room with an undisclosed location. Ronnie, a man with a shady past and a criminal record is being interrogated for the murder of a young woman. As the charismatic good cop questions Ronnie, we learn fragments of that night, told through memories of drinking, smoking and gambling. With Ronnie not co-operating and the good cop loosing his cool, the bad cop within finally emerges to corner poor Ronnie and get out a confession.

I plan to use conventions of the crime genre throughout, such as venetian blinds, smoking, gambling and characters including cops, suspects and a femme fatal. The flashback sequences will be in black and white, with obscure angles to create a sense of unease in the viewer and to imply the distorted memory of the suspect. I’ve used a range of sources for inspiration, coming predominately from modern crime cinema. The interrogation scene featured in Scarface (1983, Brian De Palma) is seen to use camera movement to an excellent effect.

The camera circles Al Pacino giving the impression the cops are surrounding him and giving the feeling of no escape. A high angle is also used throughout the scene making the cops appear to be in a superior position to the suspect as he begins to appear increasingly vulnerable. The long takes can build tension and with the cops face not appearing this adds to the idea of faceless law enforcement that is carried in todays culture.

The technique of encompassing the suspect while implementing a high angle will hopefully be applicable to my own film as the interrogation (by the bad cop) becomes evermore intense. The take will end with the abrupt sound of hands slamming on the table, (loud noises becoming a running theme with my film and a convention of crime cinema) Another source of inspiration comes from the classic Neo-Noir, LA confidential (1997, Curtis Hansen)

The music steadily builds tension as we see the building rage of Russell Crowe’s character; contrast the calm manor of Guy Pearce. The scene climaxes with the chair breaking, just as Russell’s temperament does as he storms in threatening with a loaded firearm. The two characters work to great effect contrasting each other, Guy Pearce’s clean cut by the book Ed and Russell Crowe’s rougher and more aggressive Bud.

The idea of a character almost “breaking” with frustration is something | wish to echo at the end of my interrogation scene as the bad cop finally becomes sick with the lack of co-operation and lurches towards Ronnie. I also hope to use music in the background to steadily build tension before the climax, however unlike LA confidential I wish to deviate from a typical score with something darker or perhaps electronic as seen in Drive (Nicolas Refn 2011) This would be to make the film more part of the present and I prefer the ominous tone it presents.

For the flashback sequences, the main source of inspiration comes from Memento (Christopher Nolan 2000) The black and white scenes are used to tell the story of what previously happened. The black and white is used to give narrative structure amidst its confusing plot, rather than for he purpose of adding “visual richness” (however it serves to do that too) The flashback scenes in my film will be shot in black and white, while becoming slightly blurred with low-key lighting.

This is to differentiate it from interrogation scene occurring in the present (which will be in colour). I too inspiration for irregular framing, a common convention of Noir cinema from the Third man (seen right) This will all add to the supposed confusion the suspect is experiencing. The use of black and white in my film will also be used as reference to film noir. The final scene I’ll be talking about is featured in Red riding-in the year of our Lord.

The empty space seen in the room immediately makes an uncomfortable setting for the viewer to witness, as the voices of both the detectives and suspect echo. The scene is very much an uncomfortable one as we see the second detective relax, smoking a cigarette. It would appear he is almost taking pleasure in the unpleasant questioning. The extreme close ups bring the viewer uncomfortably close, reaching a level of familiarity they otherwise would not reach, putting the viewer at unease is one of the main goals for my own film.

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