What Is the Importance of Leonard’s Body Tattoos in Memento?

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What Is the Importance of Leonard's Body Tattoos in Memento

What Is the Importance of Leonard’s Body Tattoos in Memento

Memento (2000) is a movie directed by Christopher Nolan that follows the life of Leonard, a man who, after an accident, suffers from short-term memory loss. When Lenny tries to save his wife from a possible rape, he hits his head on the floor damaging the way his brain functions and losing his capacity to create new memories. Every action of the film is set around a single objective; the relentless pursuit of the alleged murderer of Leonard’s wife.

In order to be able to follow up the mystery, Lenny has developed a system where he writes up notes to himself, takes pictures of important people and events, and, most importantly, tattoos his body with important “facts” to remember clues as he tracks his wife’s murderer. Lenny’s tattoos are extremely important in Memento (2000) once they provide a memory trigger for the protagonist, building up his feelings of anger and revenge; they are key in character development and essential for the framework story.

Lenny’s tattoos are a memory source for the protagonist, allowing him to remember the murder and building up mixed emotions regarding the case. The character has different tattoos on the front part of his body representing what he believes are facts and key pieces on the murder of his wife.

One of them in particular, located on his chest and written backward says: “John G. raped and murdered my wife”. Lenny’s tattoos not only helps the protagonist remember his goal, to catch and kill whoever it was who hurt his wife, but also feeds his feelings of revenge and anger towards the killer.

When Lenny believes he has uncovered Teddy as being the killer of his wife, for example, he quickly catches sight of his tattoo establishing a casual connection that motivates him to go after Teddy and kill him. Lenny has a visual memory, even though he must relearn daily who he has met and what he has learned since the incident, he still finds strength and is encouraged by the power of his tattoos to keep looking for John G. In the movie, tattoos have hidden meanings and help reveal and develop the character.

One, in particular, the “Remember Sammy Jankins” on Leonard’s hand, provides a miniature of the movie as a whole, as it has multiple meanings. Leonard believes that the tattoo is there to remind him that unlike Sammy, who has the same condition as him, he has a system and can therefore, control his ‘disease’. However, further in the movie we discover yet another hidden meaning in the tattoo.

Sammy has never existed the way Leonard believes, in fact, the tattoo is a reminder that Lenny lies to himself, “not only the fiction of the cautionary tale of Sammy Jankins, but also of his inability to tell when people are lying” (Heuser, 2011).

The tattoo represents Lenny’s lies and struggle to believe on what he wants to see as the truth, it unwinds a closer understanding of the protagonist giving meaning to the movie. ????? Tattoos are essential for the flow and understanding of the story. They are introduced without many explanations, throughout the movie; however, different events and flashbacks allow the viewer to have a closer understanding of them. The viewer first discovers the various tattoos that cover Lenny’s body as he undresses in front of a mirror.

In the same scene, “medium, close-up, and point-of-view shots fragment Leonard’s body into readable tattooed statements which align the spectator’s knowledge with Leonard’s sense of being in the world” (Molloy, 2010). The viewer starts to slowly become familiar with the “facts” tattooed on the protagonist’s body and connect each tattoo to each other, making sense and framing the story. Leonard’s tattoos are essential in the progress of the framework story in Memento (2000), it is key in character development and it is a source of memory trigger for the protagonist.

Leonard lies to himself, and his tattoos are simple excuses for him to believe on what he wants to be the truth, embracing his feelings of anger and revenge. Because he is covered in tattoos, “his subjectivity is made obvious, whereas culture and memories are literally inscribed onto him” (Blake, 2004); additionally, the lastingness of tattooing is what helps trap Leonard in his limitless search for his wife’s murderer.

No matter what happens, Lenny wakes up every day, faces the “facts” , and goes off on his search. Therefore, tattooing his body helps Leonard accept the murder and enhances his feelings of anger influencing his unstoppable search for revenge. Leonard is a locus of signs and his tattoos are important in the development of the story, making the final connection to what is believed to be the truth and the actual truth, reinforcing character development as well as the spectator’s identification with Lenny.

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