Momento & Following, by Christopher Nolan
This book is made up of two screenplays for films by Christopher Nolan, as well as follow-up material about each of them, that together are a bit more than 200 pages. The first section consists of the screenplay for the film Following, which was the first film that Nolan directed. This play, a complex story told in three timelines, follows the story of a young man who fancies himself to a writer who eavesdrops and follows others to inspire himself. He finds himself cultivated and groomed by a burglar and also involved with an attractive blonde, and involved in crimes far beyond his level, finding himself framed for a murder. This is then followed by the screenplay for a more successful film, Momento, where a man finds himself unable to remember anything in recent history who uses written notes and tattoos to record information and re-record it as he seeks to avenge the death of his ex-wife, leading him to a set of connected murders as well as the chance for a sort of new love. After each of the screenplays there is a discussion of the movie, including a look at the production of Following and a comparison of the different accounts for how it was that the idea for Momento started, which helped to shape the discussion of the fallible nature of memory.
One of the more notable aspects of both Following and Momento is the way that they both play with the sense of time. Both plays feature multiple timelines that play with the question of memory and its reliability as well as how it is that we come to understand the world around us. The unconventionality of the timelines appears to relate to the fact that Chris Nolan comes from an artistic background rather than a film background. And that is an important aspect of the importance of these movies. It appears, at least from Nolan’s own account, that there was a deliberate attempt to break up the conventionality of the timeline and the result is the sort of screenplay that we would come to expect from Nolan. I must admit that reading these screenplays, both of which are certainly skilled, made me both respect the director more and like his approach less, in that one can see the seriousness of the design of the screenplays but also dislike the moral framework of the author’s writings. Such is often the case, though.