Classical Hollywood Cinema and Christopher Nolan’s "Memento"


Term Paper, 2011
7 Pages, Grade: 1,0

Excerpt

Table of contents

1. Introduction: Memento and the Classical Hollywood Cinema

2. Classical Hollywood Cinema
2.1 The characteristics
2.2 The aim

3. Memento – A Classical Hollywood Cinema film?
3.1 Similarities and differences
3.2 Memento – A Neo-Noir film

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

1. Introduction: Memento and Classical Hollywood Cinema

This paper shows that Memento does mostly not fit in with Classical Hollywood Cinema (CHC). It will give a definition of the characteristics and aims of CHC to provide background information. Then, CHC is compared to Memento in the second part of the paper. It is going to show to which degree the film Memento can be seen as CHC, where the similarities and differences are and therefore give a solution of the film’s category.[1]

This paper shows that Memento does mostly not fit in with Classical Hollywood Cinema (CHC). It will give a definition of the characteristics and aims of CHC to provide background information. Then, CHC is compared to Memento in the second part of the paper. It is going to show to which degree the film Memento can be seen as CHC, where the similarities and differences are and therefore give a solution of the film’s category.[1]

2. Classical Hollywood Cinema

CHC is one of the most dominant categories of filmmaking. It describes a certain type of filming techniques and narration, which have developed in Hollywood and are used both by American and foreign directors.[2] A more detailed explanation of these characteristics will be provided in the following.

2.1 The characteristics

First, in CHC “the action will spring primarily from individual characters as causal agents”.[3] It goes hand in hand with a certain desire of the main character which leads to a goal he/she tries to achieve. The motivation, the character has, can clearly be seen by the audience. Due to that the films are defined by the development of the characters.[4]

A second point is the cause and effect chain and its relation to time. Usually, the cause- effect chain is more important than time. Therefore, the films only show events that are important to understand the film and irrelevant periods of time are left out. Moreover, the films tend to be in chronological order, particularly with regard to motivation and events, so that the actions are easily understood by the viewer.[5]

Third, CHC uses unrestricted narration and is mainly objective. This means that the viewers get background information and know things the main character does not know. Nevertheless, “various degrees of perceptual or mental subjectivity”[6] as well as restricted narration can be found if needed for a special purpose in the film.[7]

Finally, there is continuity editing and a narrative closure. Continuity editing describes a filming technique that tries to show the action on the screen as realistic as possible. It “erases traits of filming process from the film”[8] by trying to provide a continuity between different shots. Typically used techniques are eye-line matching, shot/ reverse-shot pattern and the 180˚ system.[9] Narrative closure at the end provides a solution for the conflicts and developments throughout the films and by that finally finishes the cause and effect chain.[10]

2.2 The aim

The aim of CHC is primarily to entertain the audience. Hollywood itself claims to provide entertainment which is requested by the audience and to act for the best of all people. Thus, it does not want to hurt anyone but wants to entertain.[11]

The central aim and the reason for the used filming techniques is defined by Ed Sikov as: “to keep audience members so wrapped up in the fictional world created onscreen that they cease to be conscious of watching a movie and, instead, believe that they are witnessing something real.”[12] That means it is tried to make a film as realistic as possible to keep the audiences attention and to entertain them permanently.

3. Memento – a Classical Hollywood Cinema film?

The question whether Memento fits in with CHC or not is not easy to be answered. There are certain characteristics of CHC, which can be found in the film, but other parts of Memento deviate from it.

3.1 Similarities and differences

One could argue that Memento fits in with CHC because some important characteristics are present in the film. The individual characters function as causal agents. Everything that happens throughout Memento is based on the actions and decisions of Leonard and the interaction of the other characters with him. An example is the scene, in which Leonard gets a note from Natalie with Teddy’s drivers’ license in it (M, 12:25 – 12:50). This leads him to finally kill Teddy. The scene can be regarded as an example for a cause and effect chain in the film. Every action or decision is based on a certain cause.

Furthermore there is a desire the main character is driven by. In this case it is revenge for his raped and murdered wife.

But the movie also deviates from CHC because the desire or psychological cause of the character and its effects are not in chronological order. The viewer learns the character’s motivation only after a while when Leonard’s tattoo is shown. That says “John G. has raped and murdered my wife” (M, 15:05-15:20). Nevertheless, after that scene the motivation can clearly be seen. More than that, the whole story is not in chronological order, as the end of the film is actually shown at its beginning (M, 0:50-2:36).

Another point against fitting in with CHC is the restricted narration. In every scene in the film Leonard is shown. The audience only knows and sees what Leonard knows, sees or remembers. Due to that, the viewer only understands certain things when Leonard explains them. Leonard, for example, refers to Sammy Jenkins long before the viewer knows who Sammy Jenkins is (M, 10:55-11:05). Moreover, there is mental subjectivity when Leonard’s thoughts are told. For instance, in one of the scenes inside his hotel room (M, 2:37-3:00).

Continuity editing is also used only sometimes as seen, e.g., when Leonard is talking to Natalie (M, 29:20-30:20). In this case, the director has used a shot/reverse-shot pattern. Still, sometimes it is also clear for the viewer that he watches a movie. As when the film switches from color into black and white to make sure the time shift is recognized (M, 30:31).

A very important feature of CHC is the narrative closure at the end which is not given in Memento. The viewer learns how everything fits together at the end of the film (M, 1:38:00-1:44:00) but the end of the story, which is actually shown at the beginning, does not provide a solution for Leonard (M, 0:50-2:36). The film, therefore, does not have a narrative closure.

3.2 Memento – A Neo-Noir film

As described before, Memento does mostly not fit in with the CHC. Memento can be classified as a film of the Neo-Noir genre. Although, it has developed out of it, Neo-Noir differs from CHC in important aspects.[13] Noir films are, to name a few characteristics, mainly shot in a low-key lighting, they are fatalistic and nihilistic, deal with a murder, contain a search for knowledge and there is the presence of a femme fatal .[14] All in all, it can be described as a way of filmmaking that “explores the dark side of American culture.”[15] Neo–Noir describes a genre that adapted elements of the Noir film in today’s filming. These characteristics apply to Memento. As described before, Leonard searches the murderer of his wife. He seems to be in a desperate situation because of his memory loss, but tries to finish his search. Instead of a happy ending there is no solution for Leonard. Natalie has the function of the femme fatale who uses Leonard for her interests (M, 1:10:40-1:14:00). The film sometimes also switches into black and white, which can be seen as a reference to the Film noir.

[...]


[1] Memento. Dir. Christopher Nolan, Wr. Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, Prod. Newmarket, Summit Entertainment and Team Todd Productions, 2000. Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment, 2002. All parenthetical references follow this edition (M).

[2] David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, Film Art – An Introduction (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008) 94.

[3] Bordwell and Thompson 94.

[4] Bordwell and Thompson 95.

[5] Bordwell and Thompson 95.

[6] Bordwell and Thompson 95.

[7] Bordwell and Thompson 90-95.

[8] Eckhart Voigts - Virchow, Introduction to Media Studies (Stuttgart: Klett, 2005) 104.

[9] Ed Sikov, Film Studies – An Introduction (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010) 61-69.

[10] Bordwell and Thompson 95f.

[11] Richard Maltby, Hollywood Cinema (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003) 30.

[12] Sikov 61.

[13] Sikov 149-154.

[14] Sikov 150.

[15] Sikov 150.

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Details

Title
Classical Hollywood Cinema and Christopher Nolan’s "Memento"
College
Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel
Grade
1,0
Author
Year
2011
Pages
7
Catalog Number
V171431
ISBN (eBook)
9783640908295
File size
464 KB
Language
English
Tags
classical, hollywood, cinema, christopher, nolan’s, memento
Quote paper
Jonas Lucas (Author), 2011, Classical Hollywood Cinema and Christopher Nolan’s "Memento", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/171431

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