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In the opening credits a developing Polaroid photograph of a bloody body is shown in reverse, followed by a brief shot of "Teddy's" murder shown in reverse. Two different, but connecting, narratives unfold in the film. One narrative, which is often accompanied by voice-overs by Guy Pearce as his character, "Leonard Shelby," is in black and white and appears in chronological order, in one to ten minute intervals. All of these scenes take place in Leonard's motel room, but are often interspersed with flashbacks to the "Sammy Jankis" character and to Leonard's own life prior to his wife's death. Leonard is often shown talking on the telephone in the black and white segments; near the end of the story, it is revealed that he has been talking on the phone to Teddy.
The second narrative, which is in color and interrupts the forward-moving black and white portions of the film, appears in reverse chronological order, in five to ten minute intervals, with each segment connecting to the previous color segment. Initial shots and lines of dialogue from the color scenes are frequently repeated to establish the order of events. At the end of the film, the black and white and color narrations converge, and the audience learns the beginning of the story that has unfolded in reverse.
The condition ascribed to characters Leonard (and Sammy), Anterograde memory-loss, is a rare disorder in which the victim is unable to form new memories. According to the film's presskit, Memento's portrait of this condition is not accurate; rather, director Christopher Nolan used the condition for its metaphorical value as a dramatic device. In 1998, Nolan's brother Jonathan shared with him the original story idea of a man with Anterograde memory-loss in search of revenge. Christopher Nolan independently developed the film's script from this idea, while his brother wrote the story "Memento Mori," later published in Esquire after the film's release.
Memento was shot on location in Burbank, CA. A May 7, 2001 Los Angeles Times article stated that the independently produced film cost $5,000,000 to make and, according to a October 25, 2001 Hollywood Reporter article, grossed over $23,000,000 in domestic box office sales. Nolan received the screenwriting award at the Sundance Film Festival and the London Film Critics Circle Awards and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Screenplay. Nolan was selected by AFI as Screenwriter of the Year, and the film received AFI nominations in the categories of Movie of the Year and Editor of the Year (Dody Dorn). Memento received the following Academy Award nominations: Film Editing and Screenplay written directly for the screen.