There are a lot of controversial opinions expressed online, but one that seems universally agreed on is that the rumored remake of Memento is a very bad idea. If you haven’t seen Memento then you should abandon all plans for the evening and go watch it, because it’s brilliant.
The second feature film written and directed by Christopher Nolan, it follows Leonard (Guy Pierce) as he hunts for the man who raped and killed his wife. However, Leonard was also injured in the attack and suffered brain trauma that’s left him unable to retain long term memories.
Through a series of Polaroids and messages he tattoos onto his body, he is able to retain focus on his mission but unable to retain any real sense of where he is, who his is there with or why. Giving us a sense of Leonard’s bewildering world, the film is structured to tell his story in disjointed increments that match the limits of his short term memory.
Memento isn’t a franchise, it doesn’t have a huge cult following and there’s no clear cultural parallel to the themes of the movie. There doesn’t seem to be any good reason to remake the movie.
How to Make a Good Remake
Leonard’s use of a Polaroid camera in place of memories would, in any modernization, be updated to him using the camera on his phone. And, if that’s taken as an integral shift in the narrative, it could make for an interesting version of the story.
In our new version, Leonard is unable to form long term memories and instead relies on a history of pictures, status updates, check ins and interactions on social media. In Nolan’s version, Leonard’s inability to remember is used to explore how those around him manipulate and lie to him.
Social media would give him a wider frame of reference than simple Polaroids, but social media is inherently untrustworthy. People do not present themselves as they really are online, they present an idealized version of who they’d like to be or, perhaps more accurately, who they’d like to be seen as.
More and more, our personal histories are stored as repositories in social media sites. If that history, a patchwork of the opinions, desires, misdirection and vanities, were our basis or interpreting our present situation, how would we discern the truth between the lies? How would we know if the post we’re reading from yesterday wasn’t edited this morning to change the context?
This person is claiming today to be our friend, but were they yesterday our enemy? Did we discover a truth about them, only to have them delete a post and ave that truth vanish from forever?
A version of Memento that explores the relationships we have through social media, and our relationship with social media itself and our use of it to define our identity, could actually be a remake of Memento worth watching.