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Remembering the Future: Memento, the Reverse of Time's Arrow, and the Defects of Memory

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Through its temporal reordering, Memento attempts to provide the audience with an experience analogous to Leonard's and thus heighten our understanding of how memory makes us human. When watching the film, we, like Leonard cannot make reference to a past of events - because they are inaccessible to us - or project toward a future of events - because they have been left behind. Although we may construct a chronological sequence of events as the "what happened," the story cannot be disentangled from the backwards-moving plot; there is no reverse arrow of time in our viewing experience. Yet, we, unlike Leonard, remember what has gone before in the film's order and eventually can shape it into a transcendent view of the whole, a memory of the future. Ultimately, by demonstrating Leonard's plight and reversing the forward motion of time and thus depriving us of a chronological past - but not, it should be added, a viewed past - the film compels us to consider the very nature of our nootemporal umwelt, which, with its quality of directed time, defines our humanity.


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