Guillermo del Toro and Christopher Nolan
By : Chris Tribbey | Posted: 09 Feb 2011
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Director Christopher Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight) likes to compare his breakthrough 2001 film Memento with a certain film medium that was gaining in popularity at the time.
“I felt very much that films were strangely linear, compared to books, compared to plays even,” the director said Feb. 4 after a screening of the film. DVDs, and the medium’s ability to let viewers access different chapters at any time, helped change that, Nolan said. “DVD was just the beginning, with its random access. Our relationship to stories, in cinematic terms, have become a lot like [with] books,” he said.
While trying to write the screenplay for Memento (“drinking too much coffee, banging my head against the wall”), Nolan finally got it to work by reversing the structure, mostly telling it backwards and in edible, smaller chunks. Much like the protagonist (Guy Pearce) who suffers from a condition that keeps him from making new memories, the audience has no idea what happened just previously in the man’s life. A limited edition DVD re-release included a hidden feature that reshuffled the scenes into a linear order.
To mark the 10th anniversary of the film, Lionsgate Feb. 22 will release Memento on Blu-ray Disc ($19.99), featuring an all-new, Nolan-approved high-def transfer, a new featurette with Nolan discussing the legacy of the film, an audio commentary, an “Anatomy of a Scene” featurette, the script itself, “Leonard’s Journal,” a tattoo gallery and the original short story by Nolan’s brother Jonathan. Lionsgate will also release a 10th anniversary DVD at $14.98.
“What really amazes me seeing Memento is that it’s a really incredible snapshot in time for me,” said director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy), who conducted a Q&A with Nolan after the Feb. 4 screening.
Nolan said there was an “enormous amount of skepticism at every stage” with Memento, from the script (“complex and confusing for a lot of people”) to trying to find a distributor for the finished film.
“Everybody passed,” Nolan said. “None of the independent distributors thought they could find an audience for it.”
When it did see a theatrical release, Memento nearly tripled its production budget ($9 million) at the domestic box office and led Nolan to start writing a similarly themed mind-bender: Inception.
“I felt like [I could] do that on a larger scale,” Nolan said. “Inception represented my big gamble in that sense.”
Critical acclaim, a slew of Oscar nominations and more than $293 million at the domestic box office means that gamble paid off.
“It’s scary,” del Toro said of Nolan’s success. “And I kind of hate you.”