Memento Explained

memento explainedMemento Explained

Welcome to Memento Explained – but before begin I must give a word of warning to those who have yet to see the movie… this review is intended as an extended dissection – an exegesis if you will – of Memento, its themes and its potential meanings. Please do not read this and then email me upset because I ruined the movie for you.

Memento Explained
Memento could easily be chalked up to a gimmick. Take a basic film noir story, toss in a brain injury as an excuse, shake vigorously until the extremely mundane storyline is unrecognizable to anyone and voila you have an Oscar nominee. This would be a viable reading of the movie if it weren’t for the fact that most critics & reviewers that came to this conclusion failed to even comprehend the ‘basic’ storyline. In my opinion for a critic to come to this conclusion requires them to actually comprehend the ins and outs of the storyline before they dismantle it and discard it as basic noir tripe.

And yet even if you were to cut the movie in the correct order and ‘straighten’ out the chronology², it is my opinion that Memento still out performs other movies in its own genre. Just the simple inversion of the hero/mystery investigator into a dubious half breed of good guy, bad guy makes it reason enough to fall in love with this movie. Memento takes the noir genre places it’s never been before.

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¹ If you are looking for a non-spoiler filled review of the movie I’m certain that another google search will yield you the results you are looking for.
² Which Nolan actually did do eventually – he placed it on a DVD hidden as an easter egg. But its like hiring Picasso for a museum showing to repaint each of his paintings in the show minus that little thing called cubism. The original IS the point… not what it would look like in normal mode.
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Memento Explained – Riddles
It seems as though this movie has been haunting me from my first very encounter with it. Riddles wrapped within riddles – mazes set inside mazes. It almost seems as if Christopher Nolan shot a coherent storyline and then allowed a chimp into the editing room to finalize the order of events. It’s almost too much for the senses to handle. Interspersed sections of black-and-white footage trip in and out amongst the larger color story that seems to be running in juxtaposition to its monochrome counterpart. Memento is enough to make even Tarantino¹ drop into a double handed head clutch wondering what in the world is going on.

The question I have been working on for the past few weeks and months has been whether or not it is possible to make any sense out of the entire jumble of techno color celluloid. From how I see it, understanding the chronology and untying the knots is just the first step to understanding the larger picture that Nolan has set before us. Reading review after review and discussing the movie with almost any poor sap that was unlucky enough to cross my path I have tried to get a handle on not only the events of the actual movie itself, but also its back story. It was actually a surprise to find out that most people, although they enjoyed the movie very much, were quite content with being completely and irrevocably confused². Which is why I have contented myself with the fact that this review will be hated far and wide – this is actually my final step in a 10 step program to rid myself of the monkey on my back that is Memento – I’d do just about anything to pull that little full gainer off.

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¹ Terantino’s Pulp Fiction is still one of the great examples of dramatic film edits that upend the chronology of the basic story to both intrigue and highlight the story from a different perspective.
² After thinking about it a bit more, maybe these are the wise individuals amongst us? How many brain cells did I fry trying to run the gambit of possibilities and weed out the various ‘unacceptable’ explanations? And yet I can’t shake the idea there has got to be an intense study in human behavior here somewhere that could be used for some Sociology Masters program that would eat this stuff up.
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memento explained - characters

Memento Explained – Characters
For those of you who haven’t seen the movie in a little while I have included a quick walk through of each of the major characters¹. I am certain that I have missed a few², but these are the main individuals that interact with Lenny anyway.

Leonard Shelby – (Guy Pierce) is a former insurance investigator who apparently has anterograde amnesia – which is a condition that keeps Lenny from creating long-term memories. The mental trauma was caused by an attack on him and his wife. Lenny can remember everything prior to the attack with at least some degree of reliability, including the attack itself but his new memories don’t usually last more than in 15 minute sections.

Mrs. Shelby – (Jorja Fox) it is unclear whether Lenny’s wife was killed in the attack that caused his anterograde amnesia or not.

J.G. – Potentially the initials of one of a possible two attackers that broke in to Lenny’s house, raped his wife and cracked Lenny’s skull. It appears that Lenny killed one of the attackers before ‘John G.’ could escape.

Teddy – (Joe Pantoliano) One of the original cops that investigated the attack on Lenny and his wife. Teddy seems to have taken an interest in Lenny for some reason or another. It is Teddy’s monologue towards the end (beginning) of the movie that gives us the largest amount of information regarding Lenny and his life before the accident.

Natalie – (Carrie-Anne Moss) Supposedly Jimmie’s girlfriend and eventual love interest to Lenny. It is Natalie that shows us more than anyone else that we aren’t in Kansas anymore. The connections between her, Dodd and Teddy intricately define Memento’s plot line.

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¹ For the Memento gods out there, don’t take offense. Think of this as the mental stretches before an intense cerebral workout – or more appropriately, the quiet before the storm.
² Like the tattoo person – who, I might add is the only individual I noticed that didn’t take advantage of Lenny’s mental state³.
³ Nah, I am certain she charged him for two tattoos – she must have.
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Jimmie Grantz – (Larry Holden) The drug dealer Lenny kills at the beginning (end) of the film in his attempt at avenging the death of his wife.

Dodd – (Callum Keith Rennie) Jimmie’s boss, who Lenny beats up and is run out of town because Lenny believes Dodd is beating Natalie up.

Sammy Jankis – (Stephen Tobolowsky) Lenny has a tattoo that says ‘Remember Sammy’ to remind him of the Sammy Jankis claim which he supposedly investigated before he and his wife were attacked. Apparently Sammy also had anterograde amnesia and eventually ended up accidentally killing his wife when she tested him by continually telling him it was time for her insulin shot. Teddy brings this story into question by saying Lenny is actually Sammy and that Lenny is the one that killed his wife accidentally.

Mrs. Jankis – (Harriet Sansom Harris) She is either the woman that Sammy Jankis accidentally kills with insulin or she is a fictional character that is actually Leonard’s wife depending on who you believe. Teddy says that Sammy is single and Lenny firmly remembers Sammy as having a wife that tested him.

Memento Explained – Chronology
I know that there are pockets of people who believe that Memento is a complete sham that has been cobbled together out of car parts that don’t work together. Turn the ignition and nothing happens. It is also widely held that Memento runs from the end of the events that took place back through to the beginning – in a word – backwards. This is not necessarily true. Nolan has taken extreme care to write a story that works as you assemble the pieces back together again¹.

You will notice that through out Memento there are scenes that are in color and scenes that are in black-and-white. These two separate threads in the movie are actually running away from each other. Interestingly enough they both begin with the first scene of the movie, which you will notice is in both black-and-white and also in color². The color fades in as Lenny is watching the picture to appear within the Polaroid he has just taken.

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¹ I am not speaking of the back story at this point – that is a completely different matter that I will get to soon.
² I first learned of these juxtaposed threads in a Salon article by Andy Klein entitled ‘Everything you wanted to know about Memento’. This is the first article that I have found to describe the chronology in an easily understandable and completely accurate way.
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As Andy Klein puts it ‘So, if you want to look at the story as it would actually transpire chronologically, rather than the disjointed way Nolan presents it – you would watch the black-and-white scenes in the same order (1 to 21), followed by the black-and-white/color transition scene (22/A). You would then have to watch the remaining color scenes in reverse order.’¹ Klein has beautifully explained what we all felt innately as we watched. The black-and-white forward scenes give a wonderful respite to the chaos of the continual backwardness within the color scenes. It is his connecting of the scenes at the last scene of the movie that is so brilliant. I never truly understood how we managed to travel forwards and backwards without grinding serious number of gears and eventually throwing a rod through the hood of the car.

Memento Explained & Untangled
With the help of a DVD player, and a well-exercised thumb², I was up for the challenge ahead of me. Walking through the steps described above I was able to verify Klein’s reordering of events as he described it should work out. With that in mind, I thought I would lay out the story as I saw it with my remote in one hand and a notebook in the other³.

1. Opens with Lenny in a motel room talking with Teddy on the phone – telling him about Sammy Jankis and his mental condition.

2. Teddy tells Lenny that Jimmy (supposedly the man who killed his wife, actually he is a drug dealer that Teddy wants to get rid of) will be at an abandoned building.

3. Lenny kills Jimmy and takes his clothes and his Jaguar (which has $200,000 in the trunk). Teddy tells him that Jimmy was not the killer – and that he has already killed the killer. Lenny decides Teddy is now on his bad list and writes down his license number.

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¹ Klein even goes so far as to give a road map to putting the movie back together again – using his schema (black-and-white scenes are granted numbers 1-22, while the color scenes are lettered A-V) the movie in its original form looks something like ‘1, V, 2, U, 3, T, 4, S, … 20, C, 21, B and 22/A’. The untangled version would run something like ‘1, 2, 3, 4, … 20, 21, 22/A, B,C, … T, U, V’
² From years of Super Mario (the original mind you) on the Nintendo
³ Yeah, yeah, I am sure you all have this bit sorted out and memorized but it is still good to have it all out in the open. Keep in mind that the real serious Think-Tank work happens after this is over and it is all between the lines.
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4. Lenny heads to the Tattoo parlor to get the license tattooed to his thigh. Teddy shows up and tries to get the keys to the jaguar. Lenny gets away.

5. Lenny finds the note in his (Jimmy’s suit) pocket and heads for Ferdy’s bar to meet someone named Natalie. Natalie tests the validity of his anterograde amnesia and then takes him to her house.

6. Natalie leaves and then returns and hides all the pens and pencils in her house. After which she provokes Leonard into hitting her. Natalie leaves, only to return minutes later crying about someone named Dodd having beaten her.

7. Lenny promises to defend Natalie. Leaving to go after Dodd he encounters Teddy that tells him not to trust Natalie and suggests he get a room at the Discount Inn¹.

8. In room Lenny calls for an escort to recreate the night of his wife’s supposed death. He then goes out and burns the items that once used to belong to his wife.

9. Leaving the site, Dodd spots him and he makes a run for it. Lenny ends up in Dodd’s hotel room². When Dodd returns Lenny mistakes him for an intruder and beats him up and then calls Teddy.

10. Teddy and Lenny send Dodd packing and then Teddy tries to get access to the Jaguar’s keys once again. Checking his notes he realizes Dodd had something to do with Natalie, whom he then goes to see.

11. Natalie calms him down and agrees to help him find who the owner of the license plate is. In the morning she goes to find out about the license plate number and Teddy runs into Lenny and they have lunch.

12. Returning to the Discount Inn he finds the note he is supposed to meet Natalie for lunch and he also realizes he is being charged for two rooms. Rushing to meet Natalie he finds out that the license plate number is registered to Teddy³.

13. Lenny calls Teddy and they go back to the abandoned building where the movie ends (starts). Lenny shoots Teddy (this is the scene we saw actually run backwards in the opening).

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¹ Lenny’d been given the room number by Natalie and he believed it was his own)
² Humorously, Lenny gets a second room there
³ Just as Lenny had planned that he would discover
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I must say that if this isn’t helping you out any – many apologies – but from where I’m sitting I figure this 10-step stuff might just work. Now I know that the chronology is just the bare bones of this movie upon which the real heavy lifting is done. Take for example the Sammy Jankis scene where Teddy explains that Sammy doesn’t exist, that Lenny was the one that actually killed his own wife. Do we believe Teddy? Here are two frames of the Lenny – Sammy metamorphosis to remind you of this scene’s goodness:

Memento Explained - Sammy

Memento Explained - Lenny

Or do we assume that she died due to complications in the attack some time later? We are confronted with dozens of conflicts similar to this one.

Another question that hits us early on is whether or not there are two attackers or not? If there was a J.G., did he die in the attack on Lenny and his wife? Or changing gears, consider the most controversial scene by far in the movie. Towards the end of the movie¹ after Lenny kills Jimmy; Lenny has a flash² where he has the ‘I Did It’ tattoo on his chest and he is with his wife smiling and laughing on a bed. This one moment throws many fans into a dither when you bring it up. It is this latitude, which we are allowed to think within and rationalize for ourselves, that makes this movie such an awesome experience even long after you’ve walked out of the theater.

Memento Explained – Theories
There are many different theories within the Memento community that range from the asinine to the epiphanic that attempt to answer many of these questions. Each theory is interesting in its own right. It is through developing and weeding out these theories that we get closer and closer to an acceptable meta-theory for Memento. Below, I have given a précis of the most prominent theories I have heard discussed in various places around the net.

Theory 1 – ‘The Disney – Happily Ever After – Theory’
The Disney Theory³ states that Leonard’s wife doesn’t die, but he himself does end up in a mental institution for some unknown reason. Eventually he escapes from the institution, either by himself or, more likely, with the help of Teddy, who has realized what a great weapon Lenny can be. Teddy convinces Lenny that his wife died and assists him in seeking out revenge. Teddy gives Leonard the police file with the crucial pages missing. Teddy’s monster killing machine eventually turns on Teddy, and kills him. Eventually Leonard learns his wife is still alive and is reunited and voila, we have the confusing ‘I Did It’ scene with smiling wife present.

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¹ The beginning of the chronology
² The big question here is whether it’s backwards, forwards or neither.
³ Sometimes better known as the ‘Happily Ever After Theory’
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Disney Deconstructed
The only minor problem with this theory is that the official Memento Web site clearly and unambiguously states that Lenny’s wife definitely died. It is on a psychiatric report, apparently from early 1998, that first refers to her as having passed away – but, interestingly enough it suggests that Leonard thinks she’s still alive. Outside of that little snafu this theory parallels the movie perfectly.

Theory 2 – ‘The Literal Theory’
This theory pretty much takes the evidence given to the viewer at face value. One attacker (or the one attacker, either way) escapes and Lenny’s wife passes away. Sammy is only there as a reminder to live his life more intelligently than Sammy did. Eventually, knowing a good thing when he sees it, Teddy begins using Lenny for his own means. Eventually Teddy gets tired of retelling Lenny everything that happens – snaps – and tells Lenny the truth. Bad idea. Lenny writes down on Teddy’s Polaroid ‘Don’t Believe His Lies’. The rest is history.

Literal Theory Deconstructed
The two major questions I have for this concept is what do we do with the metamorphosis scene where Sammy morphs into Lenny while Teddy is talking. The second is the ever-tricky ‘I Did It’ scene. Both of these snippets of the movie would have to be explained by saying they are errant memories of Lenny I would guess.

Theory 3 – ‘The Verbal Kint theory’
The ‘Verbal Kint Theory’ is an intriguing one that does a Borg-job on several of the various ideas out there. The cornerstone to this theory is that there is only one attacker that rapes and beats Lenny’s wife. This single attacker then dies from the wounds inflicted upon him by Lenny during the attack. Sammy Jankis doesn’t actually exist at all in this theory, it is Lenny who kills his wife with an insulin overdose.

Verbal Kint Deconstructed
The ‘I Did It’ scene is the only question that isn’t answered by this argument. This theory is probably the strongest argument I have heard so far. The thing that is brilliant about the ‘Verbal Kint Theory’ is the fact that Sammy Jankis is just a scapegoat, the killer is just a scapegoat and Lenny is far from admitting to himself he might be his own worst enemy.

Memento Explained – Conclusion
I am sure I have spent too much time playing with the various intricacies of this movie. And yet at the same time the sheer potential there for this type of mental exercise speaks volumes about how intricately designed Memento is. I don’t want you to think for a moment that I believe these theories are the end all – actually I think that they don’t even scratch the surface¹. My whole point in undergoing this exercise was to provide a springboard for some who haven’t taken the time to think deeply about the movie and see how wonderful it truly is. Most importantly join the conversation below and share your theories!!

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¹ I read an extremely thorough argument linking Sammy’s wife to actually being Lenny’s wife based upon the sheer basis of Sammy’s wife’s wrist watch and Lenny’s wife’s alarm clock. The alarm clock being one of Lenny’s final possessions of his wife. To be honest my head swam at the detail and the inferred implications.
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217 Responses

  1. fryyyyy says:

    i agree with theory 3, and i’ll add that maybe he has the tatoo of i did it removed so he has something to live for. Only way for it at all to make sense

  2. Taylor says:

    That makes sense to me too. I would actually prefer the Disneyland theory much more. That his wife is alive and he just needs to find her, etc. But seems like too much mental gymnastics to make it all work. But what I like about the Verbal Kint theory is how stinking tragic it all is! He is so hopelessly scarred by his wife’s death (his killing her actually) that he wanders the planet looking for her “killer”. Very very sad!

  3. claire says:

    I thought it was theory 3 at first, but it can’t be.

    Lenny remembers everything before the incident. Therefore he would remember that his wife is diabetic, he would have been administrating the insulin for years if she was.

    However towards the end of the movie (beginning of the storyline…) Teddy tells Lenny his wife was diabetic, and Lenny didn’t remember this. If it was true, he would have remembered this. How he could he forget?

    Even if he wanted to forget this fact to remove himself from the potential truth that he killed his own wife, he wouldn’t be able to, how can you remind yourself to forget something if you don’t remember in the first place! You can only delude yourself if you remember to!

    Also Lenny ‘remembers’ Sammy with complete detail, it’s not written down, he remembers it.

    If Lenny is Sammy, and he has overlayed his own terrible actions of over dosing his wife onto a fictional character of Sammy, then how would he remember this fictional character / story? He would’ve ‘invented’ Sammy after the incident as a scapegoat for his own actions, but he couldn’t of invented someone after the incident, he wouldn’t be able to remember it without it being written down.

    If he created this story to make himself feel better and let himself off the hook, he would of had to of done this after the incident, which is impossible, he is incapable of holding new memories after the incident.

    Even if Sammy did exist to a certain point, but just didn’t have a wife (as some articles have suggested) and Lenny has just moved the killing of his wife at his own hands, onto Sammy’s similar life story to rid himself from guilt, i still don’t understand how he would be capable of doing that without the capability of remembering anything after the incident.

    It suggests he is able to manipulate his memories to suit himself even after the incident, i can’t see how this is possible if you can’t hold onto any new memories.

  4. Taylor says:

    Well argued Clare,
    What do you think happened? How do you piece it all together with this understanding of how the movie worked? I personally think he didn’t intentionally overlay his accidentally killing his wife on Sammy. It was just a psychological trauma and voilà he’s repressing the truth. But I’d love to hear how you thought it went down.

    Taylor

  5. Josh says:

    I think ultimately, part of the magic of this film is that there can truly never be an answer other than sitting down and getting one from the Nolan brothers themselves. I would like to state that Claire argued some very excellent points – but I am curious as to what she thinks about this: Leonard states repeatedly that he is disciplined, and learns from habit, repetiion; he relies on instinct. He repeatedly states throughout the film that he pursues John G. because he “destroyed my ability (Leonard’s ability) to live”. Is it not possible that Leonard, over time, adapated to the situation, in order to give his life purpose? Much like at some point, Leonard purposely made the decision to alter the police file? Also, consider the fact that this is very similar to the decision Leonard makes to make Teddy into his John. G. – If Leonard’s conscious mind and conscience are capable of ignoring his inate morality in order to justify his purpose and give meaning to his existance and actions, is it not both possible and probable that Leonard’s subconscious is capable of this as well?

    While I tend to accept Leonard’s memory as accurate for the most part, I should point out Leonard’s monologue during which he repeatedly states to Teddy the many inadequacies of memory. Perhaps the purpose of that scene is to suggest to us all that the past as Leonard recalls it is suspect in a major way?

    I was extremely glad to stumble across this page, as I just watched this film with my roommate who has never seen it – it is great to know that people are still as into this movie as I am – And this post is so current too!

    In any case, I choose to believe the following, drawing from the theories posted here, researching the internet, and reading the original short story: Memento Mori by Jonathan Nolan, and from my own opinions regarding this movie:

    Sammy was real. He was a faking his disease, and Lenny denied his claim.

    At some point, Lenny and his wife were attacked by two men, one of them being John G. Lenny killed the first man and was injured, during the ‘incident’.

    Lenny’s wife survived the attack. Eventually, his wife is killed by an accidental overdose of insulin administered by Lenny.

    Lenny is institutionalized as a result of this, declared mentally incompetent.

    [From this point, past his wife's death, is where I choose to believe what many of you may perhaps think is questionable. I am really curious as to what thoughts you all might have.]

    Lenny is somewhat completely unable to cope with the situation. Constantly becoming aware, he is stricken with dealing with the severe emotional trauma caused upon him by his wife’s death. He comes to, periodically in the institution, starts questioning where his wife is – what has happened to her – where is he – what happened after the attack? After countless sessions of having the truth revealed to him, dealing with the grief, etc., he eventually starts to adapt through habit, similar in concept to how the doctors Lenny had hired to test Sammy were testing him – Lenny eventually learned to avoid the electrified objects. Rather than dealing with the emotions of his wife’s death, possibly with the guilt that he killed her himself (assuming the physicians continued to go through the assumed difficulty of explaining this to him roughly every thirty minutes), he simply redirected it – channeling it into revenge, warping his memory, distorting his recollections.

    Based off of the various ideas that Leonard states throughout the film, it is not that difficult to make the assumption that Leonard himself adapted psychologically, as well as physically, to his condition, and the emotional trauma inflicted upon him by his wife’s death. All the pieces are there, stated by the main character himself. Eventually, it simply isn’t as bad. He learns to not question where his wife is. He learns not to reach over to her side of the bed. He learns not to miss her. He eventually becomes callous.

    This is even suggested during the meeting between Leonard and Natalie, consider when Natalie asks Leonard to tell him about his wife again. Natalie quickly stops Leonard, asking that he not simply ‘recite’ lines, that he actually think back and describe what he recalls.

    To me, this strongly suggests that Leonard has clearly learned over time to suppress his grief and pain, or to at least not question or pursue them. He says himself, that the truth for someone with his conditionis that sometimes you feel guilty, or angry or scared – and you simply don’t know why. But Leonard, through habit and instinct – has simply learned to press on – to move forward. He simply keeps moving, never stopping long enough to allow himself to become swept up in emotion – he is a man who has learned to run from the past through instinct, rather than selfish compulsion.

    Another thing which is unclear to me, is just how bad Teddy actually was. In continuting my thoughts on this movie, I’ll start to address Teddy’s character.

    Leonard at some point overcomes his emotions and begins to plot for his wife’s ‘vengence’, choosing to believe (much like he chose Teddy to be his John G., in order to give himself purpose) that John G. BOTH raped and killed his wife, rather than just having participated in her rape. [Please note, that I am choosing to accept that Leonard's recollection of the past is for the most part, accurate - with the fabrication that his wife died in the attack, and removing from his memory the fact that his wife was a diabetic (the scenes where Leonard is shown administering a insulin shot to her leg, and then the quickly shown following scene where he is pinching it).]

    Leonard at some point obtains a police file regarding his wife’s death from Teddy. I am not sure if this is prior to his escaping the asylum, or after.

    Leonard escapes from the asylum at some point, with or without the assistance of Teddy.

    Teddy’s motivations are clearly self motivated, but what is unclear is just how long they have been working together. Is Teddy’s shady business simply a one time thing, or has be been carefully maneuvering Leonard for possibly years, from place to place, using his police connections in order to keep him hidden and off the radar to further his own agenda? (Please note, that I am not sure if Teddy is actually an active police officer, if he is truly under cover, or if he is simply a fake himself…)

    It should be noted that Teddy is very like the following:

    Extremely concerned about getting to the Jaguar for the money.
    Concerned about Leonard leaving town because it isn’t safe (I choose to accept because Leonard being in one place for too long tends to lead up to the gradual reveal of Teddy behind the scenes, as Natalie had started to hear his name around, and clearly Jimmy knew and dealt with him – perhaps others [remember that Teddy, clearly concerned, looked to the Innkeeper for a look of recognition, concerned that he might have overheard Leonard address him as 'Officer Gamell']).

    Generally acting in the best interests of Leonard, as both of their paths tend to wind up beneficial – Lenny gets to live his romantic quest while Teddy, stuck yes with cleaning up the mess, gets to reap the rewards.

    Teddy supplies Leonard with money and supplies while manipulating him via telephone and in-person conversations.

    Teddy has been using Leonard for some time and has become quite used to dealing with his condition. I noted that he essentially brushed off the fact Lenny hit him over the head at the midpoint chronologically.

    In any case, these are some of my thoughts. I think I’ve rambled on a bit, and am tired so I think I’ll wait to see if any of you want to discuss this film further.

    If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you read the original short story.

    http://www.impulsenine.com/homepage/pages/shortstories/memento_mori.htm

  6. Taylor says:

    Josh
    I buy what you are selling. But first let me say this post actually originally came out soon after the movie came out. I posted it on a board called epinions that paid people (if you want call it “pay”) to review movies & products. I picked it and dropped it here after writing a review of Nolan’s inception (http://taylorholmes.com/2010/07/20/7-layers-of-inception/), which is nowhere as tricky to understand – and even so has still garnered numerous discussions and fun arguments. You should find my 7 Lsyers of Inception and weigh in. Would love to see your insightful conjecture pointed that direction. Better yet – what’d you think of the Prestige?!? I did a review here thatight just scald your cortexes it is so controversial (http://taylorholmes.com/2009/08/26/the-prestige-explained/)

    Your theories positted here make sense and seem similar to theory three here… At the face of it anyway. (but much more eloquently argued.). For a very long time I wanted to believe Lenny’s wife was alive. And worked hard to make that make sense. But ultimately I think that the whole Sammy bit can’t be ignored. It is way too central to the movie – and for what? An anecdote about memory? Doubtful.

    You really do a lovely job of explaining Leonard’s ability to condition himself through hard work and rote recital. He obviously is caable of some memory abilities even if mechanical and more primal in nature. So kudos to you fine sir. Here’s hoping you will take the time to comment out on my inception or prestige posts…

  7. Ethan says:

    I like Josh’s theory. I’m having trouble making sense of Natalie’s role in the movie though. When he pulls up in Jimmy’s car, she mistook him for Jimmy. Then again in the bar when he explains the note on the coaster and says he found it in his pocket she sarcastically says “yeah, your pocket.” She clearly must know that he had a hand in Jimmy’s death, but she never says anything. Also, Teddy had been in the bar talking to her about Lenny, and when she gave Lenny the information on John Gammel she said she had seen him in the bar before, so she obviously made that connection. Does she know its Teddy?

  8. Timmy says:

    just listen to teddy hes telling the truth the whole time!

  9. Taylor says:

    Ethan,
    Obviously the reason Natalie mistook him for Jimmy was because he was wearing Jimmie’s clothes, had his car, Etc. Natalie obviously knew that something went down, but there was no skin off her noes as Jimmy was obviously a bad guy and she wasn’t exactly Lilly White herself and was definitely gaming Lenny – maybe for the trunk stash? Even if she wasn’t after anything she was definitely using Lenny for her own purposes… possible playing the Teddy angle?

    Taylor

  10. Chase says:

    Just a little side note…When Mrs. Jankis tested Sammy’s illness by giving her the insulin shots, I noticed that she would turn the time back 15 min on her watch (which to my knowledge is the time it took Lenny to forget, whereas it only took ‘Sammy’ like 1-2 minutes to forget) before she got ‘Sammy’ to issue her another shot. Why didn’t she just turn the time back say 5 minutes…so this scene in itself proves that Sammy is a made-up character and that Lenny is the true accidental murderer of his wife. But if you ask me, the wife is the truly mentally ill person for letting her husband give her a lethal dose of insulin…she should have known that when he was about to give her the shot that he was ill, instead of ACTUALLY letting him do it!!!

  11. Matt says:

    In terms of Natalie’s role, one could conclude that Natalie knew about the stash the whole time and was working with Teddy to acquire it. Teddy and Natalie were together using Lenny to kill off Jim/get rid of Dodd. But then, Natalie uses Lenny to get rid of Teddy in hopes of getting the money herself at one point in time. Teddy, while working with Natalie, was still suspicious of her so he tried to make sure Lenny did not trust Natalie, but Lenny could read through it. This would explain her not saying anything when we wound up in Jim’s car/clothes, because she had known he would be involved in the killing.

    Its also possible that it was Lenny/Natalie helping him redirect his memory and creating this story, to give his life purpose and cope with the pain of his wife’s death, similar to how the physicians tried with Sammy, all with the idea of using him for their own gain.

    This likely has holes in it that I am not addressing, but maybe it could explain Natalie’s role a little more.

    Another minor detail I found troubling was Lenny stated there is nothing he can trust more than his own handwriting. However, the note he found in his pocket to meet Natalie in the bar was Jimmie’s handwriting, and not his own, yet he went to the bar. My question is did Lenny think it was he that was supposed to meet Natalie or did he just go to the bar?

  12. Mubashwer Salman Khurshid says:

    Heres my theory! Call it theory #4: Sammy’s Revenge ; The 2nd attacker (or maybe the first?) was Sammy Jankis.

    Lenny’s wife was not diabetic as Lenny does not remember it (he should if she was) so Lenndy didnt kill her. Lenny remembers Sammy with great detail. Lenny is supposed to to have his old memories and should be unable to create new ones, so Sammy is real.

    Jimmy whispered “Sammy”. Why would he say that? Put yourself in his position, what would his last words be? He whispered Sammy because he knows Sammy raped Lenny’s wife and maybe with Jimmy or his organization’s help (as Jimmy knew Lenny).

    Ted is a bad cop and he also lied to Lenny at the tattoo parlour talking about a fictional bad cop (it was himself). So we can’t trust what he says.

    Lenny’s wife may have survived and maybe subsequently left Lennman y or was killed or died. The last scene shows that his wife survived. The “I have done it” may just be one of the (prolly the first) man Ted used Lenny to kill (It may or may not be Sammy.)

    Reason behind Sammy’s rape: We learn from Natalie, that this memory loss stems from a venereal disease. Lenny was the cause Sammy killed his own wife. The same way Lenny was searching for the attacker, Sammy also should search for Lenny through notes and all (or maybe he recovered?) Sammy wanted to give the same disease by raping Lennys wife and ruin his life.

  13. Matthew says:

    Chase,

    I’m not sure if your 15 minute theory (for turning back Sammy’s wife’s watch) should hold much weight.

    I’m not Diabetic, but I used to inject myself daily with a medication that was freeze-dried. If I remember correctly, it took about half an hour, but I had to re-constitute the medication from the powder. Just the time to go to the refrigerator and get the insulin, get a syringe, the swabs alcohol, etc. arranged would take more than five minutes, I think. If she left a few minutes for him forget (I’ve only seen it once.) I can imagine it being more than ten minutes easily.

    To me the fifteen minutes seems reasonable, but I think that a diabetic person would be able to give a much clearer take on how reasonable fifteen minutes is.

    Mubashwer

    I don’t buy the disease as a vector theory. If VD predictably caused this type of amnesia, we’d all be familiar with it – it would be a part of our folklore. I learned of this type of amnesia from reading Oliver Sachs, as a very rare condition – but they have clinics specifically for treating VD!

  14. Colleen says:

    Hi there! Fascinating to read all this stuff, but still a bit confused… My take on the scenes with the wife and the I did it tattoo. Weren’t the colour scenes in flashback order? That would indicate to me that she WAS still alive when he and Teddy killed the first guy (that Teddy reminded him of at the end/beginning) and he got that tattoo, and then it was AFTER that that he accidentally injected her. I get this part as the flashes of her alive are in colour, indicating backward not forward.
    Two other things that I noted: when asked how he survives for money, he says because of his wife’s insurance policy – but is it really out of Jimmy’s money in the boot? If it’s been a couple of years since he broke out of the mental home, how did he survive till then? Insurance wouldn’t be paying an escaped mental patient! Also, he tells Natalie you can’t just screw the photo up, you have to BURN it. But we don’t see evidence of him burning a photo till the end/beginning. So how would he remember to do that if he had no memory?
    Colleen

  15. Tony W. says:

    I’d like to share my theory with you all, as I think I have a couple of new things to consider. I’ve just watched the movie for the 1st and 2nd time in the last 2 days, so it is pretty fresh in my mind. The following conclusions make up the heart of my theory. I will omit conclusions taken from Jonathan Nolan’s official website, since there is debate of whether or not it is truly official.

    1. All of the flashback’s and Lenny’s memories can’t be completely trusted. Some of them are tainted.
    2. Every color scene in the main storyline that we see reflects what actually happened during those moments.
    3. Lenny’s wife survived the attack.
    4. There were 2 attackers.
    5. Lenny’s wife did have diabetes, and Lenny administered the accidental overdose that led to her coma, and eventual death.
    6. Teddy did help Lenny kill the second attacker (over a year ago).

    For the statements above to hold any weight, you have to agree with my next conclusion: Lenny is not able to successfully condition himself to remember things at a behavioral/instinctual/primal level. However, he is able to condition himself to taint his existing memories that occurred before the incident through repetition.

    With respect to Lenny’s inability to condition himself at a instinctual level, the primary evidence for this comes from a very subtle queue when Lenny enters the Discount Inn. As he is entering the building, we see him push the door to open it before noticing that he must pull the door open. Remember, Burt admits to Lenny that he rented him the original room the week before. So in at least over 1 week’s time, Lenny has entered the Discout Inn enough times that he should instinctively know by now that he has to pull the door to open it instead of pulling it. In the same way that Lenny said Sammy couldn’t condition himself at a primal level to avoid the electric shocks, Lenny cannot condition himself in that way either. As Lenny himself stated in Sammy’s case, that means the disability is psychological/mental, and not physical. This is a very powerful revelation in helping to understand the movie.

    Even though we now know that Lenny cannot condition himself to form new memories (primal or otherwise), we are constantly reminded that he has been trying to do this nonetheless. He has a tattoo on his chest that says “condition yourself.” He has another tattoo that says “learn by repeating.” Lenny says that he “uses habit and routine to make his situation work.” Hard as he may try though, he is unsuccessful at it.

    Now lets consider the notion that Lenny has also been conditioning himself to alter his existing memories. There is an obvious reason why he would want/need to do this. In a moment of realization that he actually killed his wife, Lenny must have thought that the grief was too unbearable. If he goes on remembering that she survived the attack, but is still not in his life, then that would only confuse or sadden him. A more convenient memory of her last days would be that she died at the hands of another, and that his life could have meaning if he avenged her. In an effort to do this, Lenny has conditioned himself to alter several memories. He alters any prevalent memories of him administering insulin to her, as well as the memory of her eye blinking and her breathing after the attack. As Lenny mentioned to Teddy, memory is unreliable…colors can change. The alteration of these memories support his new crusade. Lastly, he alters his memories of Sammy as well.

    There is further support that this is what Lenny is doing when he and Teddy are having their heated exchange. Below are a couple key statements.

    Teddy tells Lenny “you don’t want the truth. You make up your own truth. Like the police file. It was full when I gave it to you.”

    Teddy: So you lie to yourself to be happy. There’s nothing wrong with that. We all do it. Who cares if there’s a few little details you’d rather not remember.
    Lenny: What are you talking about.
    Teddy: I don’t know. Your wife surviving the assault. Her not believing your condition. The torment and pain and anguish tearing her up inside. The insulin.
    Lenny: That’s Sammy not me.
    Teddy: Oh, yeah, like you tell yourself over and over again. Conditioning yourself to remember. Learning through repetition.

    This ability to alter existing memories can also explain the fantasy of Lenny lying in bed with his wife with the tattoo on his chest. That moment may have actually happened when she was alive, but he is probably trying to condition himself to envision the tattoo so that he can finally move on.

    Even if you don’t belive everything Teddy says, you can’t complete discount everything. Throughout the movie, there is a lot of consistency, and many themes are repeated. Among these is the theme that all of the key characters (Teddy, Natalie, Burt, and Lenny himself) have both dishonest as well as truthful exchanges with him. They all manipulate him, but they all also have moments where they are also honest with him.

    There are a couple of other interesting things that I’ve noticed in the film. The first has to do with the fact that sometimes, people in the movie call Leonard “Lenny,” even though he does not like it, and other times they call him “Leonard.” Given my notion that Nolan is very deliberate, I’m still struggling to make a connection to what people call Leonard, and when. I originally thought that maybe it could be correlated to “truthful” encounters or statements to Leonard, or perhaps as an attempt to establish trust in him to manipulate him, but it seems to be somewhat inconsistent.

    The last thing that I’ll leave you with is the irony that I noticed from one of Lenny’s memories. Consider the following exchange between Lenny and his wife when she’s reading the book:

    Lenny: How can you read that again?
    Catherine: It’s good
    Lenny: Yeah, but you read it like a thousand times
    Catherine: I enjoy it
    Lenny: I always thought the pleasure of a book was in wanting to know what happens next?
    Catherine: Look, don’t be a prick! I’m not reading it to annoy you. I enjoy it. Just let me read.

    There is an obvious parallel between Catherine’s desire to re-read a book that she enjoyed (and already knows the ending to), and Lenny’s desire to continually re-avenge his wife’s death (even when he knows he has already avenged her). Although it originally seemed like a silly and trite thing to do by Lenny, he now finds himself exhibiting the same type of behavior. The only difference is, Lenny has the unique ability to not simply pretend that he doesn’t already know the outcome, but to forget the outcome and experience it all over again. Perhaps this was Nolan’s attempt to provoke us to think about what we truly value in life. Is it comfort in knowing that in the end, everything will be ok, or the actual journey of getting there that we value more?

  16. Taylor says:

    Hey there Tony,
    great ideas here. I liked your concept of the psychological trauma verses the physical illness concept. I too have thought through each side and figured a large portion of Lenny’s problem are probably psychological. (Thus his mental institution admittance as opposed to a medical facility.)

    There is nothing here that jumps out at me as implausible, at least in the light of what facts we do have. All very well thought out. Well done, well done!
    Taylor

  17. gassy says:

    Great stuff, what about the brown-ish shoes(Jimmy’s shoes? or Lenny’s old shoes, because Lenny is wearing Jimmy’s clothes?) Teddy matches over his own shoes, I haven’t had the chance to see if Teddy wears them in the rest of the chronology, but why would he match them? We know he wants the money from the car, but shoes?

  18. Tony W. says:

    Hi gassy, you must be reading my mind because that was the one thing that didn’t seem to make any sense to me either. I spent a lot of time trying to understand why Teddy did that, but couldn’t come up with anything. In the other scenes, Teddy is wearing black shoes, so I don’t think he ended up taking the shoes from the scene of the crime.

  19. Colleen says:

    I just realised that the copy I have must have bits missing out of it, so no wonder it’s making less sense than it should! Have to get a new copy and try to make better sense of it all.

  20. Taylor says:

    Colleen –
    you sure? Its pretty confusing! I thought mine was broken too at first! hahah. What bits are missing? How would one even figure out there are bits missing? I am SOO intrigued!

    taylor

  21. Kevin says:

    Tony W.

    exactly the conclusions that I have come to as well. It is easy to try to twist it even more, but Teddy is telling the truth at the end (beginning). Then Lenny goes on to tell us that he is making Teddy his John G. That he does indeed lie to himself to be happy. The wife’s survival, the “accdental” insulin overdoese etc, all were Lenny and he has lied to himeslef, changed his mind to live with himself.

  22. John says:

    Christopher Nolan probably had no idea what his movie meant when he made this movie…

  23. Tatiana says:

    I agree with John (and it’s the same for Inception).
    If it was perfectly done, constructed, wanted, all theories would be possible. Instead of that, we only have theories that can all be deconstructed.

    Anyway, I love C.Nolan’s movies but searching for THE TRUE THEORY is only a waste of time (but again… I enjoyed wasting my time to read all theories).

  24. Christopher P. says:

    Theory: Leonard is faking the memory condition, and that when Teddy said that he (Leonard) lies to himself to be happy, that he was lying to himself, among other things, about having the memory loss. Maybe conditioning himself to not remember?

    Leonard’s masochism would cause him to lie to himself, similar to when he contracts the female escort to visit his room, just to feel the bed warm for a second to make himself believe that his wife is still alive, although he must know as he is arranging the encounter that he is going to feel the pain of realising that she is dead immediately (when he finds the escort in the bathroom) after thinking that she is alive, due to the warm bed and the placement of her things around the room.

    I also liked how there were not any totally good and totally bad characters. The ambiguity of the film makes it much more interesting.

    Thoughts?

  25. Frank L. says:

    Hi Folks, here’s my 2 cents in no particular order:

    1- if i had to gamble, i’d take it as self-evident that Lenny ODed his wife with insulin and wound up in an institution himself. My belief is for a few reasons:

    A) The scene at the end where Sammy morphs into Lenny (for a split second) in the institution (see photos above). It would seem misplaced to cut in such a cryptic and powerful message/hint if it were untrue. Teddy’s summation/answer of all the questions we had throughout the movie I feel would lose it’s impact/purpose if Teddy was actually lying. I’m of the belief that Teddy was telling the truth in that scene.

    B) if you paid close attention, on numerous occasions when we’re viewing Lenny’s flashback of the attack, the directors gave us a hint (through the semi-transparent shower curtain)via Lenny wife’s blinking eyes that she survived.

    C) Another hint lies in the things Teddy said to Lenny: “So you lie to yourself, everybody does it.” And his assertion that Lenny removed the pages from the police report, himself. It would be fitting that Lenny (in denial about the overdose) would have removed the parts of the report that stated his wife survived.

    2) Sammy was likely a real person that Lenny investigated that was trying to run a scam on him at his job. Lenny infused (lied to himself) by combining Sammy (a pre-attack person from his job experience) with himself, projecting the horror of the overdose onto another person.

    Teddy hints at this when he tells Lenny that he knows the story about Sammy, and the “story keeps getting better and better every time he tells it” which hints that the tale gets more distorted every time Teddy hears it.

    Another hint that Sammy is in fact Lenny hints in the assertion that Lenny repeats many times in the film that “there’s nothing physically wrong with him, it’s psychological.” and “he should be capable of making new memories.”

    IMO, it’s implied that Lenny should be able to make new memories but doesn’t because he’s repressing the overdose, and perhaps his tales about Sammy have grown incresingly far fetched as well because he now has to repress the memories of all the murders he’s commited for Teddy.

  26. Christopher P. says:

    Frank, I agree with that interpretation completely. That aspect of Leonard’s psyche, that he is physically capable of making new memories but supresses them, really makes the movie. He obviously loved his wife, and for him to be supressing his memories so powerfully that he overdoses her, really says a lot about Leonard. As he says, he’s disciplined.

  27. Mr Mann says:

    I have spent at least an hour reading all the comments. First thing first, this film is in my top 5 movies of all time!

    I was hoping that someone noticed the scene where Lenny returns to the Discount Inn, only to realise that ‘Burt’ rented Lenny a second room. After Burt tells Lenny his boss put him up to it because business was slow, Lenny’s reply was “You don’t have to be that honest, Burt” – Although this is a very small funny as hell detail, to me it is the most important. It suggests to me that Leonard is a fake, how did he remember Burt’s name?

    Again, my argument for Lenny falsifying his condition was at the end/beginning. After loading his gun and leaving his room, he paused to control the adrenaline before speaking to Burt again for the first time regarding holding his phone calls. Habit and routine guys!!

    Also, it seems that Lenny only speaks of Sammy Jenkis over the phone to provoke empathy and to further influence the plausibility of his condition. There was only two other times in the entire film that Sammy’s name was mentioned without it being part of the monologue. The first was in the Cafe with Teddy

    “Have I told YOU about Sammy Jenkis?” – A question Lenny asked to confirm who he had spoken to over the phone.

    And the second in the abandoned building with Jimmy whispering Sammy’s name.
    “How does he know about Sammy?
    “You tell everyone about Sammy Jenkis” – This has to be another lie from Teddy, unless the person Lenny would normally speak with over the phone was impersonated, Hence the Tattoo never answer the phone.

    With Teddy, He told the truth once. “My Mother calls me Teddy” I can’t explain the photo he had of Lenny.. but in truth, I’ve had pictures taking of me and I can’t remember how, where or when it was taken and I don’t think I have a condition? Teddy did not give Lenny the tampered Police report. It was someone else. Teddy posed as this person, beliving that Lenny had a condition. It was only at the end just before Lenny shot Teddy’s face off that Teddy knew that Lenny was faking it all along.

    With Nat, she can only know of Lenny and his *condition* before meeting him through conversations with Jimmy. The plan was to always get rid of Dodd and Lenny would have been the murderer.. Possibly even being murdered afterwards himself by either Jimmy or Teddy

    ‘She has also lost someone, she will help you out of pitty’ – Remember Lenny wrote this down on the back of the photo after his encounter with Dodd!

    Natalie “You know what we have in common… we’re both survivors!”

    Obviously we all know the rest of the story, Teddy had other plans and wanted to keep the money himself, get rid of Jimmy and let Lenny be the fall guy for Dodd

    Jimmy “I knew I shouldn’t of trusted that Dum fuck”

    What we don’t know is what Lenny had said to Dodd for him to leave town? Whatever the circumstances, I’m sure both Lenny & Dodd sang like a bird and an unsurpassed amount of truths were told.

    Lenny loved his Wife but couldn’t deal with the reality of her rape. It put a strain on the relationship, he developed a pretend condition to help deal with the pain and frustrations, she felt more lost, committed suicide. Lenny got sent to a ward and kept up the pretence, while he was there he acted out Sammy Jenkins, perfected his routine and yeah…. A classic double-double-double crossed movie – My conclusion sucks but hey, I just needed to add my 2cents!!

    Oh before I go there was a comment that I read on here where one of the attackers may have been Sammy Jenkins.. LMAO. Loved it!!!

  28. Mr Mann says:

    @gassy
    @Tony.W

    The whole shoe thing to me is metaphoric. Imagine living your life day by day without doubts, hopes or false promises. You wake up and you live the moment. All your insecurities gone, you don’t care about the mistakes you’ve made. You know what you know and no one can take that from you. There is no past, no future, just the present. Life can be messed up sometimes, so much so that I’m guessing Teddy wanted to walk in Lenny’s shoes. A subconscious acknowledgement of admiration I presume.

  29. Chewie says:

    Hey there everyone. I just watched Memento for the first time and found myself dumbfounded by the supposed profoundness of the movie, in that it was the first movie in a long long time I couldn’t understand in one sitting. I still don’t think I understand it and intend on watching it again with friends to discuss.

    I do, however, have a theory. It leaves things even more open ended unfortunately, but it can hold water when more practical and logical thoughts are taken into place. Every memory that Lenny has is fake. He has no wife, he never worked as an insurance investigator, he never met “Sammy” or any of that. If anyone has seen the movie “Ichi the Killer”, you might understand what I’m talking about just a little bit better.

    Not to ruin this other movie, but in “Ichi the Killer”, “Ichi”, a deranged serial killer, is tricked via brainwashing to kill countless people on the pretense of them being bullies.

    Teddy is a horrible, horrible man. I would rather consider that everything that Lenny remembers is actually just a created memory that Teddy has put into his mind. Its eerie how similar Memento is to Ichi the Killer in that with this theory, they’re almost the same, minus the mind trickery, the backwards story telling, the gore in Ichi the Killer, etc. Its classic “find a crazy person, feed them stories, profit” scenario. Think about it carefully, the picture covered in blood that was given to Lenny under the door showed Lenny with only 1 or 2 tattoos, and him looking about 5-6 years younger than he looked in the movie. He was smiling, happy, and way younger than in any memory that he gave us during the movie, meaning that he killed someone before his wife would have died.

    Photoshopping is common, but you can’t tamper with, or destroy a polaroid picture without burning it, like it was said in the movie.
    I think i kind of got mixed up in my explanation I suppose… this entire theory is based on “you can’t trust what is heard, only photographic proof”. Basically, take out everything said in the movie and only consider the polaroid pictures, the factual un-tampered with evidence. Assume everything in the movie is “Lenny’s Memory”, which is very well could have been having no scene without being directly related to him, allowing no “3rd person” or omnicient view of the plotline, only what Lenny remembers.

    Basically… the memories Lenny perceives are muddled up, but the pictures can’t lie, disproving anything that Lenny would say, and therefore it means that he really doesn’t have any memories of his own because he’s had this problem for a lot longer than its projected in the movie. Going back to the repetition part of the story, and how he consistently is unable to remember certain things that would seem trivial, or “common-place” to the human mind is obvious that he cannot be conditioned at all, he has no ability to learn. However, he most certainly has the ability to forget, and have his own memories muddled with heavily, right at the end where the mere mention of something more sinister by Teddy, the person he listens to the most, causes his entire memory bank to go haywire and lead him to think he killed his wife, she was a diabetic, he was Sammy. He has the capability to be tampered with, but no capability to forget when he’s been tampered with, to learn how not to be tampered with. Lenny is basically an apple: he can’t prevent a worm from eating him.

    It sounds mixed up… I’m writing this really late… I’m just trying to add the idea that him repeatedly saying “I don’t know how long she’s been dead” and that he basically doesn’t have any “facts” to back himself up besides the pictures he takes, he really doesn’t have a clue. Teddy has been abusing poor, poor Lenny for a very, very, very long time.

    I’ll try to make something up thats better put together later, after I’ve really discussed it with my friends, sorry for my ramblings!
    -Chewie

  30. Chris says:

    Well i good explanation (just because i want to stop thinking of it anymore :P ) is that we listen to what teddy says (Theory 2) when he cracks up-after all, he didnt care telling the truth to a short term memmory guy-Leonard’s memmories cant be fully trusted as some of the images appeard are fictional and not memmories.Besically when someone someone tells him something about his past, he is so confused that creates his own memmories.For example we shaw him remembering both his wife dead and alive.Now about the tatto “i did it”, after he killed his wife with the insuline, he removed it,so he would have something to leave for..

  31. Chris says:

    sorry about my spelling my mother tongue isn’t english

  32. Chris W says:

    I have nothing to add of any substance, just wanted to say that this page is awesome. Reading all these theories is awesome. Well done everyone.

  33. Taylor says:

    @Chewie –
    Let me get this straight. You believe this has been going on forever then? Or for a long time anyway? That this memory muddling has been getting worked by Teddy even before the break in occurred? Or that the break in is a contrived memory as well?

    If that is the direction you are going I can honestly say your theory is perfect because if physically CAN’T be disproven – since everything is made up – all “facts” just got warped and discredited. A bit unnerving – but I’m sure some people think some of my theories are even more unnerving than yours! haha.

    You are doing well though with only having watched it once. See it again and see what you think afterward. I know my perspective on the movie changed dramatically between viewing one and viewing two. Viewing three was a bit of a lost cause… because of the thing with the poodle and the cotton candy. But then on viewing four and five – EUREKA! hehe.

    Take care,
    taylor

  34. Chewie says:

    Haha, I guess it can’t be disproven with the way I set it up. I’m not necessarily saying this is the exact way, its just what I caught after watching the movie, and found bits and pieces in the movie to prove it. I’m sure its not what he was thinking, but its another answer and the incredibly young version of Lenny would be my biggest evidence.

  35. Alex says:

    I didn’t think of it before but now I realise that the theory where Lenny convinces himself that there is a John G to give his life purpose and relieve him from guilt for the overdose makes a lot of sense.

    I would like to add my share to that theory: In the moment of clarity Lenny has when he chooses to make Teddy his next John G-victim, he doesn’t care that it isn’t for real and that he uses his own condition to his advantage. He writes himself a note to tattoo Teddys liscense plate and drives off knowing that he’s gonna forget what he just did but with a renewed sense of purpose.

    In a similar way, I believe that some time after the insulin overdose, Lenny decided he could not live with the guilt (assuming physicians reminded him) and wrote a note to himself: Tattoo over chest “JOHN G RAPED AND MURDERED MY WIFE”, knowing that he would forget that this only was a self-decieving lie. Again with a renewed sense of purpose.

  36. yidu says:

    he might of put the i did it tattoo to remind him that he gave the shot already and try to prevent himself from overdosing his wife not to be like Sammy and the flash back is before he killed her bi mistake and he removed it so it shouldn’t remind him that he killed her

  37. sallysellsseashells says:

    If Lenny confuses elements of his own life with those of Sammy Jankis’, then is it possible that Lenny was a conman himself, as Teddy revealed about Sammy? Then, one could argue that Lenny lives in his own alternate reality which he created in order to justify the loss of his wife. I realize that this sounds like a total stretch, but Lenny worked as an insurance investigator prior to his accident, so he understands the system. Lenny’s wife could have also had diabetes, as Teddy reveals to him at the end. Lenny could have faked his condition after he inadvertently killed his wife due to the insulin overdose. Then, his memories are created as manifestations of his guilt; the idea is that John G. and Teddy are both manifestations of Lenny’s character which he himself resents. John G. is a more exterior manifestation of himself- since John G. killed his wife, Lenny seeks revenge. Teddy is manipulative, and he represents Lenny’s manipulation of the system (as he suspected with Sammy). Both characters are created in Lenny’s mind as a way for Lenny to deal with the guilt surrounding his wife’s accidental death.

    When Lenny kills Teddy and John G., the flash of himself with the tattoo and his wife are also produced in his mind, becase he feels that he has absolved himself internally. Since he is with his wife, who is dead, the tattoo signifies that the Lenny has “killed” the manifestations of himself that he resents, and gotten rid of the guilt that plagued him over his wife’s death.

  38. Abhishek Bhattacharya says:

    Sammy is Lenny.
    Lenny killed his wife by an insulin overdose much like
    what he thinks Sammy did.

    People have been using Lenny for years for their own
    benefit. Teddy did it to get rid of bad guys and for his
    own promotion (probably). Natalie did it to get rid of
    Dodd and her problems and possibly for the $200k
    stash. Even Teddy wanted it and he suspected Natalie is
    also eyeing it, hence advises Lenny not to trust her.

    Lenny has a psychological condition (lenny is sammy).
    In such a condition, a man suppresses his pain or the
    reality to comfort himself. So, all the puzzles are crafted
    by Lenny himself possibly to give his life a new
    meaning every time he actually avenges his wife’s
    death. Lenny’s memory can’t be trusted by his own
    sayings that memory could be distorted and changed,
    but facts can’t be. Hence, we have to rely on the facts
    etched throughout his body as being true.

    Lenny is Sammy theory is stregthened by three
    arguments.
    1. Sammy’s wife put back the clock by 15 minutes and
    not by 2-3 mins as Sammy forgetted in just about 2-3
    minutes and not 15 minutes. Therefore, it could be no
    one else other than Lenny who was sitting on the couch
    watching TV and administering doses to his wife.
    2. Psychological condition explained in the previous
    para.
    3. At the end, when he killed Jimmy, he called him
    Sammy and not Lenny. Jimmy knew about Lenny’s
    condition and also must have observed him. (this is
    only a hypothesis as this corresponds to the part earlier
    than the b/w story which is not part of the film, a
    prequel to it. The hypothesis can be argued by
    remembering the bar scene where Natalie test Lenny for
    his condition and when she is satisfied, she deludes him
    and uses him for her benefit subsequently to kill Dodd).

    There is no reason for Jimmy to say an arbitrary name
    like Sammy when he is about to die. (I can deconstruct
    the other theory of Sammy being the killer, as Jimmy
    says that Lenny is making a big mistake and perhaps it
    was Sammy who killed his wife and mumbles his name
    towards the end. So, it is actually Sammy (= Lenny)
    who killed his own wife and it was a mistake for Lenny
    to think otherwise and gag Jimmy.

    Also, I believe that in total Lenny has killed six persons,
    with a new clue added for each person he killed. The
    story which only talks about two killings (Jimmy and
    Teddy) are the 5th and the 6th clues. So, we assume
    that the other clues lead to other guys, one per clue.

    Fact 1: Male
    Fact 2: White
    Fact 3: First Name John or James
    Fact 4: Last Name G___
    Fact 5: Drug Dealer
    Fact 6: SG13 7IU

    The “I did it” scene could be explained by saying that

    Lenny’s memories can’t be trusted as they were
    distorted by Lenny to give a purpose to his life
    (strengthened by the last scene). Thus, that scene
    etched in his memory is a distorted one.

    It is unclear whether he avenged his wife’s death
    (basically his wife survived but he was avenging his
    own disablility which he said a number of times that he
    wanted to kill the person who gave him this condition.)
    before his wife got killed by the insulin overdose or
    after it because it is not part of the story (part of the
    prequel).

    Assumptions:
    1. Teddy’s says the truth at the end.

  39. skc087 says:

    Hi! I just wanted to say ty for making this page. I just finished watching the movie for the first time and I was a bit lost at the end like many others I hope and after reading the 10 steps I am no longer lost.

  40. Taylor says:

    skc087 – thanks! Hopefully you are a little less lost anyway. Appreciate your taking time out to shout out.

    Abihshek – brilliant points. I liked your 6 people killed theory. There is a bit of stretch there in that he only learned one thing from each death. Which seems odd. But, yeah, I like it over all. There is a ton of stuff that happened outside our viewing periphery.

    Sallysells – I actually like your theory that Leonard is a con-man lost in his own web of lies after killing his wife theory. Sort of an understandable response to an overwhelming psychological trauma but exponentially worse for him because he now has a hard time telling reality from fiction, etc. I think we just segued to Inception… ANYONE HAVE A RED PILL HANDY?!?

    You guys are rocking the comments. Loving reading the various theories and ideas. Shows me I didn’t even come close to scratching the surface on all the various possibilities.

  41. Meg says:

    Did anyone else wonder about the flashback scene where Lenny’s wife is reading in bed and he is bothered by the fact that she is repeating the same action over and over? Naturally, as everything in this movie has been analyzed and appears to contain some symbolic meaning, I assumed that the one significant scene between him and his wife would allude to something much deeper. Any ideas??

  42. Chris says:

    After reading all of these conclusions and thinking a lot, I believe that this movie wasnt made to be understood, its a movie designed to makes you piece together things looking for something that isnt there, just like our protagonist did.

  43. D says:

    I had a roommate that watched this movie every night freshman year in college. Now I watch it whever I cannot find anything else worth it. This is what I have learned from having to watch this countless times. Sorry there are not many answers just some logical conclusions and a bit more questions raised, hopefully my take on it will help someone figure it all out. Sorry if I mistype I am using my Droid.

    1. The b&w vs color parts of the film serve as a parallel to a polaroid. The color parts are ‘actual events’ and developed, the black and white are memories and are not. Thus, the color we know is real, the b&w we don’t. The phone scene that is spliced in may seem not fall into memory, but it is Lenny’s memory about Sammy…so, we see that it is undeveloped. This may also have something to do with opening scene and the photo.

    2. As stated above Lenny has a faulty (or regular, if you listen to him in the diner) memory system. His condition is psych/mental. Proof of this is the “Remember Sammy Jankis” Tattoo. Sammy is a memory, prior to the point where Lenny cannot remember. So why would he need to tattoo it on him? 2 options, 1) conditioning, 2) Sammy was real (per Teddy’s story), but each time he sees it it remind him to build his mental construct of Sammy. Could the tattoo be to remind him of his condition, I think not. A) he would remember Sammy thus his condition, it might a nice hint, but a tattoo? Seems like a note would do, even if he lost it he would remember quickly. 2) Almost every case of this condition people know they have it, so I know the Nolans know that.

    3. The police file is missing pages because either they recorded the OD of Lenny’s wife, that was administered by him or they contained the record of the second attacker. Either way Lenny is the one that tampered with it.

    4. Sammy Jankis’ story about the wife and test is Lenny. Sammy did exist, but was a conman. Again, Teddy wasn’t lying.

    5. The attack. There might have been 2 attackers, might have been 1, there might have been no attack at all. I think that there was since Teddy and Lenny both agree to it. Also, this probably the even that broke Lenny.

    6.”I’ve done it tattoo” Probably the most confusing part. Could Lenny have committed suicide and that was it? Could he have gotten the tattoo prior to the film as a reminder that he killed his wife? Could he have got after killing Teddy?

    7. Teddy was truthful, except whenever using Lenny to get the money or avoid Nat getting it. Which means that John G. was used by Teddy in order to get the 200k from Jimmie. John G. may or may not have been the attacker, Teddy or Lenny may have invented him.

    8. Lenny has no real condition, he is either faking it or psyching himself into it. I think psych. This is based on the Sammy story. If it is as Teddy says and Lenny seems to recall, then Sammy was just a cheap conman and Lenny busted him. So, Sammy Jankis is not real, he existed, but what we see and hear about him is Lenny. The testing, upset wife, insulin, and mental home were all Lenny. The investigator was probably Teddy.

    9. The photo that Teddy shows Lenny is real, it is Teddy’s ace in the hole. Teddy helped Lenny find John G. hoping that after it was done that Lenny would snap back. After that didn’t happen he took the photo so that if Teddy was ever in the situation that he was in when he got shot he could “prove” to Lenny that he had done already.
    10. The tattoos. One interesting theory my roommate had was that the tattoo where there not guide and help him, but originally to help him keep his lies straight and condition him.
    11. Now I have avoided Natalie, Jimmie, and Dodd. 1) Natalie only serves to flush out the Teddy character. She is only there because of the note that Lenny found ing Jimmie’s pocket. She offers not insight into Lenny or his past. Her motive is not the money, she could have taken it while he was sleeping, she wanted Dodd gone.2) Dodd was only there to link the Natalie story more to the Teddy story. He had nothing to do with Lenny. 3) Jimmie is the interesting one, only because he said “Sammy”. and this is the turd in the punchbowl. Was Lenny really Sammy? Did Jimmie know Sammy, the Real Sammy, who had turned into Lenny. How far did Lenny’s lies to himself go?

    Maybe?

  44. JohnG says:

    What an awesome site here.. watched memento again after about 8 years and was just as confused as before. some great theories on here.. so I’ll add mine..
    A couple things that bother me in the film, in that I can’t get them out of my head and seemingly have no explanation..
    1)When Jimmie says ‘Sammy’ at the end/beginning. I know this has been covered by others, but no one is going to utter those final words unless they have real meaning. Teddy’s explanation of “you tell everyone about Sammy” is no good. Either Lenny was Sammy, or Sammy was someone else who was involved with everyone somehow.
    2)When Natalie see Lenny for the ‘first’ time in Jimmy’s car and suit, she mistakes him for Jimmy, but when she sees that it is not, her reaction is strange. It’s again, almost like she already knows him.. which is supported by her statements in the bar.
    3)This is the biggest.. when Lenny confronts Jimmy in the warehouse, Jimmy reacts with almost indifference and distain. He clearly seems to know Lenny and recognize him, and almost treats him in a condescending manor until he gets hit in the head. Also, the jumping back and forth between Jimmy talking and images of Lenny’s wife was strange. It was almost like something big was about to be revealed but wasn’t. Was there some connection between all of these characters?
    4)When Lenny shoots Teddy, right before he does, it almost seems like there is a moment of recognition. Maybe it’s just Teddy recognizing that he actually is going to die, or maybe it’s more. Maybe he sees something in Lenny’s eyes that tells him Lenny knows exactly what he’s doing? He says “Let’s go down to the basement and I’ll show you who (or what) you are” Obviously, Lenny intended to kill Teddy, whether he set himself on that course or was faking all along. (I don’t necessarily buy the faking theory,as it seems too difficult to incorporate in much of the film).
    There’s obviously other ones, but most have been well covered in other posts. Any thoughts on these? I’ve only seen the film twice, so I may be misremembering.

    ok, now time for a super-crazy theory..
    Sammy/Lenny, Jimmy, Natalie, and maybe Teddy were all involved in a insurance fraud scheme that went bad, and that’s why Jimmy recognizes Lenny. Maybe it was thru Sammy, or maybe it was Lenny, or maybe (and I doubt this one) maybe Lenny set up his own wife’s murder and then had to cover it up by the insulin thing, and then fake his ‘illness’ and then broke out to track down his accomplices and kill them off. Like I said, crazy.

  45. JohnG says:

    Ok, here’s another one about the end/beginning scene, when Lenny confronts Jimmy. Jimmy clearly knows Lenny and knows about him and is kinda amused about it (again, until he gets hit in the head). So, what’s they’re prior relationship?
    Also, regarding my earlier question.. watch the scene sequence again and how it cuts back and forth between Jimmy driving up and images of Lenny’s wife. Is this just Lenny remembering his wife and the fact that he is going to kill her ‘killer’? because the way it’s shot, it is like one of those effects where she is responding to the same dialog that is going on with Lenny and Jimmy. Was Jimmy at their home before at some point?
    I’m sure there’s no answers.. but man this movie is a mind-twister!

  46. jinx says:

    Haven’t read all of the comments yet, but I just watched it again last night (had seen it many years ago) and I have to correct your “I did it” to the actual tattoo that read “I’ve done it”. That wording makes a WORLD of difference in the interpretation.

  47. Taylor says:

    How, prey tell, does it make a difference? I am, in a word, all ears. Both are past tense… no? Seriously, would love to hear how it works in your mind.

  48. jinx says:

    OK. Read all of the comments now, and I’ll throw out my simple solution that seems to fly contrary to all of the given theories.

    I went into the movie remembering (after seeing it years ago then again last night) he had killed his wife and it was revealed at the very end. I came out with a very different impression last night.

    I pointed out the tattoo actually says “I’ve done it” because it is the crux of my theory (on a movie that has no correct answer) that he has finally accomplished his goal. He has killed both “John and James G.” and has revenged his wife’s death.

    My theroy is that Teddy is actually the John G. that Lenny is looking for the whole time. Teddy has found it easier to manipulate him than to run from him. Jimmy and Teddy were responsible for killing his wife and Teddy is looking to have Jimmy killed to end the trail. He figures that his familiarity will keep him from harm, but it ends up making him the primary target. Lenny kills the right guy by stroke of luck.

    I guess this fits into the original “Disney” theory, but it was the conclusion that I came to after watching last night. I remembered it as “I did it” (assuming guilt) but saw last night that it was “I’ve done it” which implies accomplishment.

    Just a shot from left field. I love the site and theories.

  49. JohnG says:

    jinx – that’s a good one.. had not thought of that. I like all of these theories, but I wonder if it is more simple and, because Nolan never gives us the straight anwer, we’re left to conjecture more than we should? I would defer to most of you on here, cause again I’ve only seen it twice, but am still enthralled by it.
    One problem I see with your theory is that at the end of the film, as he’s writing down Teddys license number, he admits in monologue that he’s lying to himself and he’s going to make Teddy “his John G.” But, if you’re saying he just doesn’t realize it and ‘lucks into it’, then I guess it could still work. But again, that seems to read into it.
    I still would like any ideas about the end of the film and the dynamic about Jimmy and Lenny and Natalie. (read my questions in earlier post) Like, how bout this one.. when Lenny is choking Jimmy, it flashes to a scene of his wife being choked. Is he just thinking of the justice he is doing? Or is it a memory of HIM choking her?
    Natalie states that one of the causes of Lennys condition is VD.. this is actually correct, herpes specifically. Was his wife cheating on him? like I said, we go crazy cause we don’t get the answers.

    Also, another item that I read somewhere else.. assuming everything in the film is there for a reason – is there any connection between Lenny’s handwriting? He writes in block letters everywhere but once – when Teddy tells him not to trust Natalie, he writes that in cursive. Granted, he ends up scrathing it out, but…? The only other cursive writing is the Sammy Jenkis tatoo. What’s the connection? is there one? does something click in Lenny’s brain when it comes to Natalie? Again – is Natalie’s character more pivitol than we realize?

  50. D says:

    Just a point. If Teddy was THE John G. and just pretending to be Lenny’s friend then why would say “Hell, I’m a John G.” ? That would defeat his whole ploy.Yes, Lenny already found out for the DMV paper, but Teddy doesn’t know that.

  51. AnonymousGuy says:

    I have a really crazy theory. Teddy is, at times, not actually real, and part of Lenny’s mind. The part that struck me as odd was when Teddy lined up Lenny’s shoes to his own, and, from what I remember, matched up perfectly in size. I also feel that Lenny was a cop prior to the incident, and that Sammy was, in fact, a con artist, whose case Lenny was looking into. Now I know that other characters have openly addressed Teddy while Lenny was present, but I still feel that at certain times, Teddy isn’t actually there; kind of like a corrupted part of Lenny that is based on Teddy.

    I’m sure I could come up with more examples to support my completely ridiculous and most likely false theory, but it’s late at night. But one must admit, that however unlikely it may be, it’s fun to seriously consider Teddy as a made up person ;)

  52. Crippledknight says:

    Greetings,

    Thank you for the explanation, it sounded great and helped me understand the literal movie’s meaning. I don’t want to sound like the only wierd skeptical person here but I just wanted to add this perspective. The movie not only talks about leonard, and his wife, teddy or others… if you listen do the dialogue… I believe it has a wayy more profound meaning…

    With much thinking, we know that throughout history, we tend to forget about our ancestors, about our past, about what actually DID happenned and the knowledge of our ancient forefathers. We then only have accounts, mostly written accounts of what happenned. No matter how many written accounts we have, how much evidence in there is, how many pictures, drawings, interviews or books, the reality, is changed. Hence, history is only a reflection of our memory. That’s why when we go to books like the bible, the pentateuc, explanations about the egypcians, or other way more ancient accounts, we can barely make out what the hell it’s saying there. We’re suffering from a memory loss and sometimes, someone takes advantage of this and tells us to do horrible things… “We’re not orriginal killers… that’s why we’re so good at it…”

    We can see many references to what I’m saying in the dialogue, specially in the fact that, even though he write specific facts anbout what happenned, he is confused and makes wrong actions based on malinterpretations of what he himselft wrote! Same thing that has happenned throughout our history, which repeats itself in a horrible manner!

    —–I’m not going to say the specific ancient character that is being represented by Natalie due to the obvious abguiguity and easy interpretation if you look at it this way. She knows, that we, as humans, forget our past, she knows we’re weak and looking for answers. She decided that she can fool us into doing her dirty business. She’s pretty and knows our weakness “our lack of knowledge”. She even explicitly says it when she says: “”I can call your wife a whore, I can hurt you so bad, and you won’t even remember! You’re pathetic!”” Hence she decides to use us to acheive her goal, which, is not clearly explained in the movie :)

    —–Teddy: His wonderful line at the end: “You’re not a killer, that’s why you’re so good at it” I think the writer could not have picked up a better choice of words fot this meaning… we as humans are not really meant to kill each other… we’re just thauoght wrong and deceived that war is the way… Teddy is also represented the WHOLE movie as… the great deceiver… because he uses us for his deeds, we even write on a note “DO NOT BELIEVE HIS LIES” Sadly, we write it for the wrong reasons, even if he was lying, we even forgot what he was lying about in the beggining!

    —–Lenny’s Wife: Wow… I didn’t realize the whole meaning of this character… until… she decided that she loved lenny “US” So much, that she was willing to do the ultimate sacrifice and come to him “us”in person. Told him “us” that she loved us, and tried to live with him… sadly… we , in our confusion and forgetfulness of our whole, forgot our real nature, and instead of doing what we’re supposed to… we killed him… I mean he killed her because he forgot :)

    —Lenny: Forgetful human race. That writes down history to remember himself of his stupid actions, to not commit them again or to solve the problems of the future… sadly… in our confusion and forgetfulness, we are easily deceived into burning or misinterpreting the evidence we’ve written throughout OUR history…

  53. JohnG says:

    Ok, CripKnight..
    you win. that’s the craziest one yet. lol.

  54. Anonymous says:

    I haven’t seen anyone address this detail yet, so I may as well add this in. Lenny tells (Teddy?) that memories are often warped, they are not a reliable source, and that facts always win. He claims to remember the story of Sammy, but what if this memory was warped. He also explains how Sammy was not able to be trained into instinct. what I think is happening is that Lenny is actually Sammy, and that when he disguises the truth he is able to remember. And that these repetitive things, such as the insulin, and the shape training, did indeed get burned into his mind; however, they were burned as past, and that when he would try to remember the past, he remembered those memories. He always explains how the last thing he remembers is his wife dieing, but in the clip he believes to be real, he didn’t actually see his wife die, but in the case of the Sammy story, he did. Another question, why did he have such vivid memories of the Sammy incident, if it was just one case out of his old career? Why did he bring it up every time? One last thing, I think this one is good. How did he find out Sammy’s wife’s death? She was dead, and he didn’t have memory and yet Lenny was able to explain how she planned it and how it happened. I think that Lenny is actually Sammy and that the bathroom incident did indeed happen, but she wasn’t killed during it. Sorry if that was confusing, I’m still trying to understand my theory…

  55. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, I forgot to read the comments first, seems like you already touched on that. I think you might have also touched on his tattoo “Remember Sammy” I think he used that tattoo to alter his previous memories… Also, to prove that he can actually create new memories over repetition, he knew every time when he talked to someone what condition he had, and how it effected him. He knew at all times his condition and that he would forget it within a few minutes… That was burned into his memory at the institution when they would tell him constantly about it.

  56. Alex says:

    This is a random note but it could be fun to look into if it piques any of your respective interests. Without further adieu… What’s up with all off the names ending in a long E sound? Teddy, Natalie, Mr. (Lenny) Shelby and Mrs. Shelby, Jimmie, and Sammy. Only Dodd and Mrs. Jankis have names that go against this trend. Why? Also, Lenny consistently reiterates that he hates being called Lenny. His full name would not fit the trend… Significant? You may say that he couldn’t help telling people each time they nicknamed him Lenny. But, why would the writer have every single person call him Lenny, and why would the writer have Lenny correct everyone each time? For me, the reason is that there is some hidden significance behind all of those rhyming names…

  57. Marta0710 says:

    This film is complex or we wouldn’t be discussing it. I’m no expert, by any means, but I would like to express my opinion and welcome comments and critique. I think Lenny has mulitple personality disorder that surfaced and/or was flabergasted by the attack on he and his wife. Lenny is Lenny. Lenny is Sammy. And Lenny is Teddy. Lenny is confused and can’t rememer anything for very long because the other personalities step in. Sammy is the personification of all Lenny’s fears. Teddy is the personification of Lenny’s truth and acts as his voice of reason. I think Lenny accidently killed his wife with an insulin overdose and the other personalities were created in an effort to cope. In reality, Lenny is a mass murderer who has a mental illness. He will kill again.

  58. asdf says:

    anonymous from august 4th made a great point. sammy must be lenny, otherwise how could he or anyone else know about the insulin overdose if sammy could not remember it

  59. joshiixo says:

    I don’t think there is really any answer at all. I think the entire movie is up for interpretation. Christopher Nolan has always had a good way of doing that. If you watch the more recent ‘Inception’, it ends the same way. Is it real or not? As for the idea that Sammy is Lenny, you can never really know. Lenny says facts always win and memories can be distorted. So when Teddy tells Lenny that he’s Sammy, is he telling the truth or is he distorting Lenny’s memories? There is no proof of either side, so you can never really know. You can say the Sammy is Lenny because that’s the only way he could know how Sammy’s wife died, but in reality, how would anyone know at all? If it was Lenny killing his wife with the insulin shots, he would forget a couple of minutes later before anyone could know. The same would happen if Sammy was a real person. So I believe this is just a hole in the plot.

  60. rwthewheel says:

    Leonard new of the Insulin injections because he first investigated Sammy’s insurance claim. It is very likely that he would have the data of Sammy’s wife’s death as well. The cause of death would have been identified, and Leonard knew that Sammy gave his wife her injections. “Remember Sammy Jenkins” is a way for Leonard to know his condition in each of his “aware” moments.

  61. Adam says:

    I think what started his whole killing rampage was the fact that he is sammy, and killed his wife with insulin, but since he forgot he had just given her the insulin he thought someone had broken in and suffocated her. The rape thing can be satiated by them getting jiggy before the insulin shots and Lenny/Sammy not remembering it :P

  62. Anonymous says:

    I believe that Lenny is in fact Sammy and the the reason he has “Remember Sammy” tattooed on his hand is to that he can remember his name, which doesn’t seem to help.

  63. Mo Hassan says:

    Lenny is actually the second Neo after a new anomaly within the matrix surfaces after the saving of Zion. Teddy is still Cypher and attempts to use new-Neo to out Sammy (the new Morpheus)

  64. Grob Slubbly Flaiye says:

    SPOILER FOR Inception FOLLOWS: In Inception it’s been pointed out that Cobb only wears his wedding ring in the scenes that are dreams, and doesn’t wear it in the scenes that are real. The big question is the end scene which Nolan said he leaves entirely to the viewer to interpret. Nolan says people interpret that scene depending on if they have kids. People with kids want to think Cobb made it home to them. People without kids like to think Cobb is in a dream hell abyss. But Nolan has kids and says he likes to think Cobb is in fact home. So is he wearing the ring? No! Where am I going with this? Conclusion: Like Cobb’s wife’s ring, Sammy/Leonard’s wife’s watch may be a Nolan clue. Over to you because Now I need a drink! \O_o/

  65. Andrew says:

    One problem with this – you said they start with the same scene, but they don’t. The color scene begins – if watched chronologically – at the end of the black and white scene. Therefore, they do not head in separate directions like you said (you said this also). The black and white scenes are previous to the color scenes. Think about the
    note on his leg to shave his thigh. In the color scene, he went to his “old room,” which had been switched about a week prior. The note and shaving cream were on the bed. Obvious.

    Claire – While you did make good points, I must agree with Josh. And remember a quote from Lenny himself. He said that memories can be misleading and can’t be trusted. “.. they can change the color of a car..” So how can Leonard’s own memories be trusted? He could have conditioned himself to alter his conception of reality. Just because Sammy “couldnt” doesn’t mean he can’t.

  66. Andrew says:

    and the majority of the times he lost memory involved something being slammed – door, dumpster, car door, cup on a table, etc. He also wanted that hooker to slam the door when he went to the bathroom. His wife being raped may have involved slamming sounds (door, her hitting the floor, whatever), and the trauma that he experienced knowing his wife was raped before the injury set him to wipe his short-term memory at the sound of a slam.

  67. matt says:

    lenny cant be sammy because the tattoo artist tells sammy to gtfo while lenny is getting ink. and the multiple car thing wouldnt work out. and trinity looked up sammy’s plates in a dmv database

  68. Ian says:

    In the “The Verbal Kint theory” how would Lenny have gotten brain damage if there was no second attacker to cause it?

    I believe that Lenny and Sammy are the same person. I think that his wife survived the attack. In the scene where Natalie is looking at Lenny’s tattoos in the mirror, she put her hand over his chest and says “what about here” to which Lenny responds “maybe it for when I find him.” I look at this scene and then at the “I did it” scene and cannot think of any other explanation than Lenny killed his wife. Perhaps he creates Sammy as a person who he can relate to and learn from.

  69. Iona says:

    The literary source interweaves with the movie and gives you a better understanding of the movie. It is sort of like a prequel to the movie itself.

  70. Dave says:

    To Andrew: I agree he could have been clearer when he said the color and b/w scenes were “running away from each other” (I think that’s what you are referring to). Really they’re converging: the black and white scenes moving forward in time, the color scenes moving backward in time until they meet in the middle in the scene that transitions so subtly from black and white into color.

    I think the scene where he’s lying in bed with his wife who’s ALIVE and has the tattoo saying he’d DONE it is not a big problem at all. It’s one of the easiest puzzles to explain: it was a fantasy, nothing more, just as Andy Klein says in the salon article.

  71. Bob says:

    Something left out of all of this commentary is the importance of the scene in the pickup right before Leonard kills Teddy. He has a conversation with himself and says:

    “Can I just let myself forget what you’ve told me? Can I just let myself forget what you’ve made me do? You think I just want another puzzle to solve? Another John G. to look for? You’re John G. So you can be my John G… Will I lie to myself to be happy? In your case Teddy… yes I will.”

    Add in this quote:

    “Sammy Jankis wrote himself endless notes. But he’d get mixed up. I’ve got a more graceful solution to the memory problem. I’m disciplined and organized. I use habit and routine to make my life possible. Sammy had no drive. No reason to make it work.”

    And what I get is that Lenny does have anterograde amnesia, Teddy is using him to fleece criminals and drug dealers for cash (ie, he’s a dirty cop), Lenny needs motivation to go on so he intentionally sets himself up to believe he has not yet killed “John G” (in a moment he will forget he fabricated the “evidence” and legitimately believe Teddy is his target).

  72. Anonymous says:

    So, I just finished watching this and it really made me think. Especially the last monologue given by Lenny after Teddy says Lenny is Sammy. Sammy was a con artist and faking his amensia, according to Teddy. According to Lenny, his memory problem WAS NOT PHYSICAL, but instead was a mental block likely an adverse reaction to blocking out the traffic accident he was in. What if both these theories are true to an extent? What if Sammy exists as a man who had partial memory loss due to a mental block, but later overcomes it, however’ still seeks out the insurance money? And what Lenny’s wife was raped, and Lenny killed her attacker? In order to block out the horror of his wife’s defilement and murdering another human being, Lenny mentally blocks out his short-term memory. And then the story continues much like it was told in the film, Lenny’s wife has diabetes and in her utter frustration of her husband’s unwillingness to “come to” she tests him via her insulin injections. Lenny obliges her, and ends up killing her. At some point in time (probably after her death), Lenny breaks down his mental barrier and is in fact able to make and retain short-term memories. Rather than accept responsibility for his wife’s death, he chooses to remain blind to the facts and creates a second attacker in order to give him purpose and to allow him to seek his own kind of redemption. An this brings us back to the closing scenes. Teddy says Lenny is not a killer, which is true to a degree in this theory. Lenny is mentally incapable of handling murder unless it has the purpose of revenge (redemption), which is also why he refuses to believe he is resposible for the death of his wife, the only killing in which he would be held accountable not for revenge, but out of neglect or selfishness or at best, inability. And in the closing scene, where Teddy forces Lenny to face the truth of his own actions, Teddy has essentially broken through all the five layers of defense mechanisms Lenny has been using to try and redeem himself. This call back to reality forces to the forefront all the emotions Lenny has been repressing about the attack and the death of his wife and Lenny resolves to kill Teddy, not because Lenny actually has amnesia, but because he doesn’t. Lenny remembers everything, but actively chooses to repress it, deny it, regress to a state of mental confusion, and finally projection. He projects his own moral reality on to everyone else around him because he can’t face his own. So the closing lines from Lenny are a recognition of his past and a resolution to stay burried in his own defense mechanisms, thus resolving to kill Teddy. Killing him will effectively end the life of the only other person who can make him face the truth, and simutaneously reaffirming his own defense mechanisms by projecting his reality on Teddy once more, only this time with him as the mark he needs to kill to redeem himself.

  73. RobK says:

    Excellent article and a joy to read after having seen the movie (again) last night.

    It seems to me that the “Verbal Kint” theory is the best one, except that there really were two people, not one that raped Lenny’s wife. So, on the one hand, he and Teddy actually do end up finding and killing the other guy and Lenny used the exact methods employed in the film. So there is a whole other story there, but not really another movie, because in that case there was no twist to the story. Meanwhile, intertwined with that story (perhaps happening before, perhaps after) Lenny kills his wife with an insulin overdose and constructs Sammy to cover over his memories. After all, it is these memories/lies that keep him happy, just as we all tell lies to make ourselves happy. Clearly this is not something that he is incapable of doing since he does it in order to get Teddy.

    A great movie to show in a into to philosophy class, especially with Lenny playing with the idea that maybe the world doesn’t exists when we close our eyes. He appears to convince himself that it does…but them maybe not completely an “external” world. After all, by closing his eyes, that is, telling himself a lie generates a new world in which he can find meaning.

    A brilliant, brilliant movie that doesntt even come close to Inception.

  74. Michele says:

    I, for one, am very appreciative of the many thoughts and opinions being shared here. I am going to re-watch Memento and go from there. Amazing film in my book.

  75. Taylor says:

    I agree Michele – I have been lurking here for a while, longer than I remember… and have just had a lot of fun every time another person drops by and throws their two cents out there. Memento is such an epicly wide open move and so disjointedly foreign that it really can go any which way.

    I didn’t realize the comments plugin jacked up the readability of the older comments. Need to go fix that pronto. Regardless, would love to hear your comments after you’ve rewatched it again!

    Until then,
    Taylor

  76. John says:

    This may be a bit far-fetched… but maybe the “I did it” is in fact insinuating that Leonard himself (for whatever reason) killed his own wife. As was the case with Sammy, perhaps his problem was not physical at all, instead perhaps it was mental. We see a similar situation in the movie “Shutter Island” in which Leonardo DiCaprio kills his own wife and thus has memory loss and plays an investigative game (similar to what Lenny does). Also, the parallel between the names Lenny and Sammy strike me as interesting. The rhyming in these names perhaps represents a parallel between the two where both killed their wives, just by different means. Lenny creates the Sammy story so that he would not remember how he had actually killed his wife. Thus, he may have been put on trial, put in a home for mental treatment and imagines everything in his own mind.

  77. alex says:

    @ claire
    Theory 3 can still be plausible. If the certain details of “sammy jenkins” character are in fact meant to be transposed onto Leonards character, then the repeated phrase “his condition was mental, not physical” can also be transposed. Basically I am saying that the pure and constant repetition of that phrase could be done by nolan to highlight that there is nothing wrong with any physical connections or mental capabilities in Leonards head, and therefore if the urge is strong enough the mind still has the potential ability to delude itself.

  78. aaron says:

    What would happen if you took out all the stuff you werent sure about this movie and only went on fact. I remember Lenard saying that you cant trust memory only facts? what would the story be like then?

  79. Rick says:

    I’ll try not to rehash everything said here, but will reiterate some…

    As a viewer I think we have to take Teddy’s comments at the end as being sincere. You can tell Teddy doesn’t feel in danger at all while in the warehouse with Lenny, so there isn’t any reason for us to assume he’s lying.

    So assuming Teddy was telling the truth..
    1) There were two attackers and later, with Teddy’s help, Lenny did kill the attacker that got away. Teddy actually seemed really sincere when he said (in affect) “I thought killing him would break you out of it but it didn’t. ” (I’m suspecting Teddy started out with the good intention of really trying to help, but now at this point Teddy was just being corrupt and decided he could use Lenny.)
    2) There was a REAL Sammy Jankis, but he was just a con man. (More on this though below)

    More than likely, I subscribe to the view Lenny did kill his wife with the insulin. She didn’t die in the attack, as evidenced by the constant clip of her with her eyes blinking while on the bathroom floor – plus the other allusions to him being ‘like’ Sammy Jankis.) I tend to think that Lenny’s condition was also mental (not physical) and his condition was more a result of the grief of the rape vs the head trauma (which would explain how Lenny could condition himself and how he could repress certain things – such as ignoring the fact that he had a tattoo on his chest – that natalie pointed out and we see at the end – that said “I did it.” It’s interesting how in the movie we don’t see that tattoo https://img.skitch.com/20120312-taft7kyb1ggyck2ket3gq7y9fp.jpg but I think Natalie sees it when she says “What about here?” and Lenny goes “Maybe that’s for when I find him.” I think you’re supposed to believe it’s really there, but Lenny blocks it out because he’s able to repress that memory to allow his drive of revenge – his meaning to life – to continue. (Unless you are supposed to think he doesn’t put it there until after he kills Teddy? – but I’d suspect he would have donned that tattoo after the first kill of the real John G.)

    Side note, the “I did it” tattoo also wasn’t yet over his heart, in this picture that Teddy took of Lenny – presumably at the crime scene where Lenny killed the real John G https://img.skitch.com/20120312-cumi6s3y7ff4961s5ynf9b75jw.jpg Note, how he’s pointing to where he’s going to put the tattoo. This means that tattoo was referring to him killing the real killer and not a tattoo to remind him that he killed his wife (with the insulin overdose) as some others have mentioned. It also would confirm that he probably added that tattoo shortly after the first killing.

    The three things I’m still most confused about:

    1) How does Jimmy know Lenny? Like others have pointed out, he clearly knows him (he even says as such “Yea I remember you” – he even says “Yea memory man.”) My first guess is that Jimmy and Teddy have used Lenny before in the past on another job? Another (but less plausible reason) is that Jimmy somehow was involved with Lenny and his wife in some way. As another poster pointed out, it’s interesting how in the scene were Jimmy pulls up to the warehouse, they pan a few times to Lenny’s wife – first looking out the window, as if someone was pulling up, and then her going outside. Maybe were supposed to think Jimmy has pulled up to the house before? I prefer the first theory though, as this latter one seems like a stretch (why would they be involved with the likes of a Jimmy in the past?)

    2) Why does Jimmy whisper “Sammy…” to him? If there never was a real Sammy to begin with (which is what I used to think), then this makes sense since the first thought in the movie is that Lenny was Sammy and there never was a real Sammy. The problem with this is when Teddy says “Sammy was a con man.” “Sammy didn’t have a wife.” Teddy seems sincere when he says it – almost to the tune of “Sammy was a con man that was faking, but you Lenny, you’re really messed up and have this condition.” If there truly was no ‘real’ Sammy then why wouldn’t Teddy just go “sheesh Lenny, how many times do we have to go over this, YOU are Sammy!” Teddy seems to be spilling out as much truthful stuff as he can there in the abandoned house so why would he leave out this information? – why bother even saying “Sammy didn’t have wife?” There wouldn’t be any point to putting on a rouse that a real Sammy existed. So I’m really stumped why Jimmy whispers “Sammy…” Jimmy and Lenny obviously have met before, but even if Lenny did ramble on about Sammy (Teddy: ‘You tell everyone about Sammy’), that wouldn’t explain why Jimmy would say “Sammy” while dying.

    (In regard to the shoes, I just think Teddy was being opportunistic… he’s obviously greedy so his character seems like the type that would go “Hmm, not going to leave a pair shoes behind if they might fit me.” It’s a pretty cool scene in a way since it shows Teddy’s character driven by opportunity and greed.)

  80. Rick says:

    @ME (sorry only two things confused about.. didn’t mean to put three.)

  81. Nate says:

    One thing i am surprised noone sees is something that put all my curiosities to rest once it hit me. The real question everyone should be asking before they take apart the storyline is the same question lenny himself ask about sammy.. is it psychological or physiological. lenny claims it must have been the blow to the head that caused his anterograde amnesia so lets apply the symptoms. Amnesia caused by blunt trauma can very likely cause lennys symptoms and is the leading cause of amnesia but it subsides and eventually all but disappears but lenny may still be in his confusion faze so lets not exclude that yet. lenny may very well be telling the truth but if that is so and he has brain trauma that completely blocks his ability to form new memories HOW COULD HE KNOW HE HAS THE PROBLEM!? i would have to say that is something that happened after the accident and he showed his knowledge of it many time throughout the movie by explaining it to people when he first meets them (or meets them again) the other inconsistency is the fact the he knew information about the police case? that really doesn’t make sense.
    i have to admit that Claire made me see something i must have refused to see. the fact that he would have known his wife was diabetic if he were in fact sammy but this doesn’t dispute the facts that there is no way that there is no psychological aspects (by that i mean non-physiological) to this case. another important fact about anterograde amnesia is that most display an indifference towards everything and someone with real brain damage would not be so passionate and angry about finding a killer. lenny may not be sammy but it is obvious to me that this is psychological and i think this is proven throughout the movie because lenny shows at many times there are things he is repressing. to move on to what i actually think is the case is completely anecdotal because with all Nolan films there is no answer he leaves it up to us. but what i see is the most plausible answer is that lenny was in fact sammy and all the information lost about his wife was the result of the second traumatic experience of killing his wife. i hold this stance despite the addition of Claire’s point because of the flashback where he is injecting his wife in bed that he previously recalled as a pinch. i think the part of this that makes it more confusing for us is that we don’t know the original cause of lenny’s or sammy’s amnesia and compounded with the new trauma of killing their wife’s (which subconsciously they still know) throws a complete curveball at a easy diagnosis. for my last statement i will offer my last conclusion that i have just pieced together as i wrote this last paragraph but is still entirely anecdotal.. if the amnesia was in fact all psychological and they in some were conscious of the fact that they were killing their wife’s perhaps it is what they wanted. did lenny really look like a man who was meant to be living the boring life of a insurance investigate or whatever it was he did? perhaps it was his boring life that caused his brain to throw that curve ball to bring some excitement into life and when he killed his wife he was able to live the badass vigilante life he dreamed of. i think this completely explains all aspect of my theory though it may be sparse and again completely anecdotal.

  82. Rick says:

    @Nate
    Read my post at the end of page 16. The issue with him definitely being Sammy is that it doesn’t make sense when you factor in the conversation he had with Teddy at the end. There wasn’t any reason for Teddy to lie at that point, so why would Teddy talk about Sammy and say “Sammy didn’t have a wife.” (Another question is how did Teddy even know that? And like I point out in my previous post, why did Jimmy whisper “Sammy.” Obviously Teddy and Jimmy knew about Sammy.) Teddy would have just told Lenny, “There is no Sammy. You’re sammy. Like I’ve told you before but you keep wanting to forget it.”)

    I do believe though that when Lenny was describing Sammy, that he was referring to himself and that Lenny definitely did kill his wife with the overdose. It’s as if Lenny himself knew deep down that even his own condition was psychological yet he couldn’t come to grips with it (which would also explain how he knew about the police report. It also explains why he acted like he didn’t know his wife was diabetic … since he was just repressing that whole ordeal to avoid the pain of what happened.)

    Read my post though on page 16, because I’m still really confused on the two questions I have there at the end.

  83. Nate says:

    @ Rick i see your ‘@Me’ post but not the one before i looked through the pages too if you just wanna repost them or maybe find them id love to discuss them.
    but i just watched it and forgot about that end part where his with his wife and has he tattoo “Idid it” along wih the others idk if thats suppose to be imagined or what? if its imagined and not real then was a dick move by Nolan to fuck with us people who wanna take apart this movie (or to teach us not to look too far into it lol) or perhaps this meaning hes looking for he eventually finds and maybe his wifes not dead and when he finally finds this meaning he is cured maybe going with my theory of he invented this illness to bring meaning to his boring life. and yea sammy would have had to be real to some extent for him to integrate the two memories.

  84. Rick says:

    Oh interesting.. my initial post was still awaiting moderation:)… people will be confused now with @me comment on page 16… here was what I posted .. (that I think taylor just missed approving)…

    I’ll try not to rehash everything said here, but will reiterate some…

    As a viewer I think we have to take Teddy’s comments at the end as being sincere. You can tell Teddy doesn’t feel in danger at all while in the warehouse with Lenny, so there isn’t any reason for us to assume he’s lying.

    So assuming Teddy was telling the truth..

    1) There were two attackers and later, with Teddy’s help, Lenny did kill the attacker that got away. Teddy actually seemed really sincere when he said (in affect) “I thought killing him would break you out of it but it didn’t. ” (I’m suspecting Teddy started out with the good intention of really trying to help, but now at this point Teddy was just being corrupt and decided he could use Lenny.)

    2) There was a REAL Sammy Jankis, but he was just a con man. (More on this though below)

    More than likely, I subscribe to the view Lenny did kill his wife with the insulin. She didn’t die in the attack, as evidenced by the constant clip of her with her eyes blinking while on the bathroom floor – plus the other allusions to him being ‘like’ Sammy Jankis.) I tend to think that Lenny’s condition was also mental (not physical) and his condition was more a result of the grief of the rape vs the head trauma (which would explain how Lenny could condition himself and how he could repress certain things – such as ignoring the fact that he had a tattoo on his chest – that natalie pointed out and we see at the end – that said “I did it.” It’s interesting how in the movie we don’t see that tattoo https://img.skitch.com/20120312-taft7kyb1ggyck2ket3gq7y9fp.jpg but I think Natalie sees it when she says “What about here?” and Lenny goes “Maybe that’s for when I find him.” I think you’re supposed to believe it’s really there, but Lenny blocks it out because he’s able to repress that memory to allow his drive of revenge – his meaning to life – to continue. (Unless you are supposed to think he doesn’t put it there until after he kills Teddy? – but I’d suspect he would have donned that tattoo after the first kill of the real John G.)

    Side note, the “I did it” tattoo also wasn’t yet over his heart, in this picture that Teddy took of Lenny – presumably at the crime scene where Lenny killed the real John G https://img.skitch.com/20120312-cumi6s3y7ff4961s5ynf9b75jw.jpg Note, how he’s pointing to where he’s going to put the tattoo. This means that tattoo was referring to him killing the real killer and not a tattoo to remind him that he killed his wife (with the insulin overdose) as some others have mentioned. It also would confirm that he probably added that tattoo shortly after the first killing.

    The two things I’m still most confused about:

    1) How does Jimmy know Lenny? Like others have pointed out, he clearly knows him (he even says as such “Yea I remember you” – he even says “Yea memory man.”) My first guess is that Jimmy and Teddy have used Lenny before in the past on another job? Another (but less plausible reason) is that Jimmy somehow was involved with Lenny and his wife in some way. As another poster pointed out, it’s interesting how in the scene were Jimmy pulls up to the warehouse, they pan a few times to Lenny’s wife – first looking out the window, as if someone was pulling up, and then her going outside. Maybe were supposed to think Jimmy has pulled up to the house before? I prefer the first theory though, as this latter one seems like a stretch (why would they be involved with the likes of a Jimmy in the past?)

    2) Why does Jimmy whisper “Sammy…” to him? If there never was a real Sammy to begin with (which is what I used to think), then this makes sense since the first thought in the movie is that Lenny was Sammy and there never was a real Sammy. The problem with this is when Teddy says “Sammy was a con man.” “Sammy didn’t have a wife.” Teddy seems sincere when he says it – almost to the tune of “Sammy was a con man that was faking, but you Lenny, you’re really messed up and have this condition.” If there truly was no ‘real’ Sammy then why wouldn’t Teddy just go “sheesh Lenny, how many times do we have to go over this, YOU are Sammy!” Teddy seems to be spilling out as much truthful stuff as he can there in the abandoned house so why would he leave out this information? – why bother even saying “Sammy didn’t have wife?” There wouldn’t be any point to putting on a rouse that a real Sammy existed. So I’m really stumped why Jimmy whispers “Sammy…” Jimmy and Lenny obviously have met before, but even if Lenny did ramble on about Sammy (Teddy: ‘You tell everyone about Sammy’), that wouldn’t explain why Jimmy would say “Sammy” while dying.

    (In regard to the shoes, I just think Teddy was being opportunistic… he’s obviously greedy so his character seems like the type that would go “Hmm, not going to leave a pair shoes behind if they might fit me.” It’s a pretty cool scene in a way since it shows Teddy’s character driven by opportunity and greed.)

  85. Rick says:

    hmm I tried to post again.. and I think it’s awaiting moderation because it has some links to some images .. images I took as screen shots from the movie. (or this post is too long:) Here is the post I’m tried to make on page 16 without the images to see if it goes through…..

    As a viewer I think we have to take Teddy’s comments at the end as being sincere. You can tell Teddy doesn’t feel in danger at all while in the warehouse with Lenny, so there isn’t any reason for us to assume he’s lying.

    So assuming Teddy was telling the truth..

    1) There were two attackers and later, with Teddy’s help, Lenny did kill the attacker that got away. Teddy actually seemed really sincere when he said (in affect) “I thought killing him would break you out of it but it didn’t. ” (I’m suspecting Teddy started out with the good intention of really trying to help, but now at this point Teddy was just being corrupt and decided he could use Lenny.)
    2) There was a REAL Sammy Jankis, but he was just a con man. (More on this though below)

    More than likely, I subscribe to the view Lenny did kill his wife with the insulin. She didn’t die in the attack, as evidenced by the constant clip of her with her eyes blinking while on the bathroom floor – plus the other allusions to him being ‘like’ Sammy Jankis.) I tend to think that Lenny’s condition was also mental (not physical) and his condition was more a result of the grief of the rape vs the head trauma (which would explain how Lenny could condition himself and how he could repress certain things – such as ignoring the fact that he had a tattoo on his chest – that natalie pointed out and we see at the end – that said “I did it.”

    It’s interesting how in the movie we don’t see that tattoo [in this scene I removed image link] but I think Natalie sees it when she says “What about here?” and Lenny goes “Maybe that’s for when I find him.” I think you’re supposed to believe it’s really there, but Lenny blocks it out because he’s able to repress that memory to allow his drive of revenge – his meaning to life – to continue. (Unless you are supposed to think he doesn’t put it there until after he kills Teddy? – but I’d suspect he would have donned that tattoo after the first kill of the real John G.)

    Side note, the “I did it” tattoo also wasn’t yet over his heart, in this picture that Teddy took of Lenny – presumably at the crime scene where Lenny killed the real John G [image link removed] Note, how he’s pointing to where he’s going to put the tattoo. This means that tattoo was referring to him killing the real killer and not a tattoo to remind him that he killed his wife (with the insulin overdose) as some others have mentioned. It also would confirm that he probably added that tattoo shortly after the first killing.

    The two things I’m still most confused about:

    1) How does Jimmy know Lenny? Like others have pointed out, he clearly knows him (he even says as such “Yea I remember you” – he even says “Yea memory man.”) My first guess is that Jimmy and Teddy have used Lenny before in the past on another job? Another (but less plausible reason) is that Jimmy somehow was involved with Lenny and his wife in some way. As another poster pointed out, it’s interesting how in the scene were Jimmy pulls up to the warehouse, they pan a few times to Lenny’s wife – first looking out the window, as if someone was pulling up, and then her going outside. Maybe were supposed to think Jimmy has pulled up to the house before? I prefer the first theory though, as this latter one seems like a stretch (why would they be involved with the likes of a Jimmy in the past?)

    2) Why does Jimmy whisper “Sammy…” to him? If there never was a real Sammy to begin with (which is what I used to think), then this makes sense since the first thought in the movie is that Lenny was Sammy and there never was a real Sammy. The problem with this is when Teddy says “Sammy was a con man.” “Sammy didn’t have a wife.” Teddy seems sincere when he says it – almost to the tune of “Sammy was a con man that was faking, but you Lenny, you’re really messed up and have this condition.” If there truly was no ‘real’ Sammy then why wouldn’t Teddy just go “sheesh Lenny, how many times do we have to go over this, YOU are Sammy!” Teddy seems to be spilling out as much truthful stuff as he can there in the abandoned house so why would he leave out this information? – why bother even saying “Sammy didn’t have wife?” There wouldn’t be any point to putting on a rouse that a real Sammy existed. So I’m really stumped why Jimmy whispers “Sammy…” Jimmy and Lenny obviously have met before, but even if Lenny did ramble on about Sammy (Teddy: ‘You tell everyone about Sammy’), that wouldn’t explain why Jimmy would say “Sammy” while dying.

    (In regard to the shoes, I just think Teddy was being opportunistic… he’s obviously greedy so his character seems like the type that would go “Hmm, not going to leave a pair shoes behind if they might fit me.” It’s a pretty cool scene in a way since it shows Teddy’s character driven by opportunity and greed.)

  86. James says:

    hey man, i was just posting to say that i didn’t read you commenting about why we see Lenny, in the psychiatric hospital’s chair ? It firstly shows Sammy Jankis in it, then suddenly for 0.5 seconds switches to Lenny sitting in it. You can find still of it on the net, or if like me didn’t believe look for it in the movie. I can’t remember exactly where in it but it’s in one of Lenny’s flashbacks.

    Also commenting about how it was made on purpose to give the characters names finishing in phonetic “ee” (as in Yepeeee)
    Lenny, Jimmy, Teddy, Sammy,…

    :)

  87. Rick says:

    @James. That pic is right on the first page of this blog so not sure what you’re talking about it not being mentioned.

  88. Bryan says:

    What’s the chance that Lenny had a personal experience in his past with a person he now shares the same condition in a movie told in this matter? The chances are nonexistent. Lenny and Sammy are the same.

  89. Rick says:

    @Brian…
    I definitely believe the condition Lenny is describing when he talks about Sammy is referring to himself… and in fact it was Lenny that killed his wife with the overdose…so in a sense “he was Sammy” however, as I start to point on page 17, I’m not convinced though that there wasn’t “a real Sammy” ( A Sammy that may or may not have had a similar condition.)

    The reason I say that is referenced on page 17, but it boils down to the last scene were Teddy says so much stuff “about Sammy.” Even if Lenny (and Dodd) only heard about Sammy from Lenny’s ramblings over the year(s), it wouldn’t make sense that Teddy would bother to “play along” like he did at the end. Teddy says things like “Lenny, Sammy was a con man. He was faker.” and “Sammy never had a wife.” If there really never was some kind of Sammy’ why does Teddy even bother acting is if there was? Why not just say “Teddy, you’re Sammy. There is no Sammy. I tell you this all the time but you never remember it because you’re messed up.” Teddy never says this though.

    I still don’t get though why Dodd’s whisper “Sammy” when Lenny is dragging him down the basement half dead? Dodd obviously knew Lenny (I happen to think Dodd and Teddy worked other deals together using Lenny for their criminal needs.), but I can’t figure out why Dodd would whisper “Sammy.” (I’m leaning towards the guess that it was thrown in just to really let you know that Lenny was Sammy – in the sense of they Sammy that Lenny was describing. )

  90. Kyle Bond says:

    Anyone ever think about how Leonard didn’t like it when is wife called him Lenny? Maybe this is because Lenny sounds an awful lot like Sammy. Maybe his wife actually used to call him Sammy (because he was/is Sammy), but Leonard subconsciously manipulated this memory so that his wife called him Lenny instead. He doesn’t like the memory of his wife calling him Lenny because he is getting to close to the memory of being Sammy, and he has trained himself through habit to avoid this memory.

  91. Glenn says:

    SPOILER ALERT ( SHUTTER ISLAND )

    i cant be assed writing anything too long haha but i agree with josh in that i think lenny after realizing he had killed his wife (as in shutter island) he tries to repress his memories and almost becomes mentally unstable.

    only thing with this theory is if you believe his wife was diabetic and he actually killed her or not.

  92. Bradley Civick says:

    In regards to whatever happened to Leonard after the events in the movie, Nolan pretty much suggests Leonard continues what he’s been doing, just starting over when need be, in a never ending cycle, like a junkie in the downward spiral of addiction that only end in death or arrest.. The website ‘news’ article supports this, since he’s gone, but he’s left behind all his ‘work/clues/photos’. I think maybe Nolan throws out a little clue to Leonard in ‘Batman Begins’. The ‘Joe Chill’ character looks at lot like Leonard during the trial (a Leonard with many, many miles on him physically). Joe Chill is wearing the same color suit and blue shirt that Leonard wears most of the movie, as he explains to the judge his ‘down on his luck, never gets a break story’.

  93. steph says:

    A new therory…
    I have a new theory not discussed and so far no one I talked to likes it. I call it the “reverse psycho theory” based on the hitchcook film and not the mental illness.
    If you recall in psycho the audience knows a lot more about the murders than the characters in the film and the characters believe the murders were committed for money, when in fact they were the result of a mental illness and money had nothing to do with it.
    In memento the opposite is true. The audience knows less than the characters and the “murders’ were committed for money, not on the basis of a mental illness….WHAT THE HEY???
    My theory is that Lenny is faking it, after learning of the “illness” of a single man known as Sammy Jenkins and he learns all about it and plans to murder his wife…..
    In the story of Sammy, you may recall that his “wife” turns back her watch and requests that Sammy inject her. But if she wanted to commit sucide, why would she need to turn her watch? Wouldnt she just tell Sammy to inject her, as Sammy would have no idea what time it was..
    The reason for changing the watch is FOR THE POLICE AFTERWARDS…The police would check the dead wife’s insulin level and find it high, BUT AS HER WATCH WAS WRONG….she must have told he ill husband the wrong time and he being ill couldnt tell. So “Lenny” just overdosed her, and changed her watch. They put him in the institution until they figured it was an accident and he left…
    He works with Teddy to put together schemes where he kills drug dealers etc, claiming the mental illness and keeping the money. Teddy believes his illness, but uses it to get rich with Lenny.
    Only Teddy gets greedy so Lenny plans with a new girlfriend Natalie how to get rid of Teddy and steal Jimmy’s money. On the night of Jimmy’s death, Natalie puts the cup protector in Jimmy’s pocket knowing that when Lenny kills him and takes the clothes he will find it. Also Lenny throws the keys away so Teddy cant follow him to Nataile.
    Lenny and Natalie fight to keep Teddy off guard as Teddy is watching him, as he “surprises: Lenny in the car.
    In fact the scene with the tatoos of Lenny laying with his “wife” are not imaginary but in the future.
    The ‘i did it” doesnt involve the killing of Jimmy g but the success of Lenny fooling everyone into thinking he has a mental illness which he can use to kill people and take their money.
    The film ‘ends” (although this is the middle of the story) with Lenny driving an expensive car with 200,000 dollars in it.
    The events after that are to cover their tracks (ie Natalie and Lenny) by getting rid of Dood and killing Teddy before they leave town to do it again.
    In this case Lenny is simply letting everyone believe he is mentally ill so he can kill for money….the opposiite of the Hitchcook film in which a pscyho is killing unrelated to money…

    Think about it…Another interesting theory..

  94. Rick says:

    @Steph

    Sorry that theory doesn’t make sense on a lot of levels but to start with… Why would Sammy go on consciously faking a mental illness and let himself be used by Teddy when he’s been acquitted of murdering his wife? I could see him faking it to get off of the murder rap, but what benefit is it for him to then continue to be faking and to be used Teddy? If Sammy wants to still kill people he no longer needs the whole guise of a fake illness.
    Second, the movie shows him faking things while he’s in private. There wouldn’t be any need for him to be consciously faking things in private.

  95. KG says:

    @Steph That theory is nice, but doesn’t really work out. For instance when he is chasing Dodd and goes back to his hotel to get the beat on him he sits down in the bathroom with the bottle of alcohol. Then he ‘restarts’ and doesn’t understand why he is holding the bottle, so he starts to take a shower. So if he was faking, why would he do this? This clearly doesn’t benefit him and he is in private so it doesn’t make sense to fake it.

  96. luke says:

    Its simple guys, leos wife survives the rape ,but leos head is slammed in and his memory problem starts.Leo kills his wife soon after over injecting her.Leo is sent to the mental hospital were teddy rescues him and uses him to his own greed after he helps kill the real killer and his greed over comes him.Natalie knows that teddy used leo which is why she keeps saying teddy was involved with her husband/friends murder.

    Leo creates the whole samy story, which is basically what really happened to him and his wife.He had a memory problem killed his wife and ended up in the mental house.How ever leo makes this other character sam up to separate reality with this fake sam story with the use of constant repetition telling every single person he meets the story of sammy over and over again.Eventually not even needing the i did it tattoo.

    Leos figure in samys fake reality could honestly be tedy.Since the samy story is nothing more than leos past reality he broke off into a story he tells others.

    Then who raped leos wife?Well teddy in the heat of the moment spills it all out he died years ago with teddys help.But leo does not want to accept the truth and writes on his picutre “Teddy lies” to avoid the truth hes been avoiding. He finally realizes that no matter how many times he repeats the samy story or attempts to find a imaginary killer teddy is the voice of truth(yes mixed with a little greed),and kills him.At the end he stares at the bloody killing of teddy ONCE MORE TWISTING REALITY WITH repetition. PROBABLY SOON FORGETTING HE KILLED TEDDY!!

  97. sammy says:

    Very interesting. Though I am very late to the party (the fact that I literally just watched the movie I nevertheless enjoy reading everyone’s inputs and takeaways about the movie. In actuality, this discussion in itself helps to provide at least one universal truth that this movie has: it leaves the viewer in awe and perplexed simultaneously, which underscores just how magnificent this movie is. However, after reading through the posts, I noticed some minor details that weren’t mentioned (or perhaps I missed them). Now mind me, I am simply enthralled by the tone of the conversation and the enigma that is Memento, but I simply need clarification on a few points:

    1. The mirror writing. There are a few points I want to bring up with the mirror writing on his upper chest. First off, it was written so that only through the mirror it can be read. Though this is obvious, it hide one implicit detail: this must mean that the writing was for Lenny’s eyes only. Why should only Lenny be accessed to this knowledge? Does it add a more personal touch to his quest that he is the only one who truly understands the “goal”? Also, we see that it is written in a different hand style. I know that it is VERY difficult to write vicariously from outside one’s body, but perhaps Nolan wanted us to note this subtlety and think, perhaps someone else wrote it? Perhaps he was given a motive to live, from whatever puppeteer controlling him it may be.

    2. NEVER ANSWER THE PHONE. This tattoo is not revealed until late movie (black/white scene) where there is a bandage covering it up. The bandage and the font of which the tattoo was engraved tells us that it is both made by a tattoo artist, and that it is new. However, we are only given on snippet of the tattoo lady, and it was for the license plate fact (Fact 6 if my memory holds…no puns intended). So the question is when did he get this tattoo, and from what context does he derive this fact? Since it is a later fact, it must have been introduced later on in his journey (beginning of movie) but from where? Also, to note, the font is very different from the other tattoos he has. The facts on his leg are clean cut, without size differentiation and font scaling. However, the NEVER ANSWER THE PHONE has an artistic spin on it. What is the significance of the artistry in this tattoo, if any? To my eyes at least, it seems that the NEVER ANSWER THE PHONE tattoo’s art is similar to the ones on his mid chest, which I didn’t get the chance to read coherently yet.

    3. Jimmy knows Lenny. In the end of the movie (beginning of Lenny’s story) Jimmy implies that he recognizes Lenny. I believe he calls him the memory man, or something to that effect. Perhaps it is just through the grapevine if Ted has been using him for a while, that Jimmy learns of Lenny as the killing machine, but that is just a theory. I want to know how Jimmy could possibly know Lenny in the context that he does: a bit ticked off and also a bit relieved. Also, to note, on Lenny’s body notes he writes that it is John G OR Jimmy. However, the font of which “Jimmy” is written is rushed and not in sync with the rest of the writing, which leads me to ask why rush the word “Jimmy” or perhaps even WHO wrote it on his arm?

    4. The Courtesan. Why does Lenny actually need this woman to lay things out to her accord? And why does he need her to wake him up loudly? In mind of what he saw and heard from his wife’s “incident” it is vaguely similar. There was a knocking of the door and the wife’s belongings were set up too during the “incident”. There is an allusion that I’m just not getting here. Lenny has waken up before and has never needed another person to help him. In fact he seems to dislike the presence of others when he wakes up, though this should be unbeknownst to Lenny due to his condition. However, my questions still hold weight: why the Courtesan, the slam of the door, and the fung shway of the objects?

    If you have read this far, I congratulate your attention span (puns galore!). I do not have a lucid idea of what is going on so I don’t have a conclusion to make. I just want people to answer some of the questions I have above. Or, if they have already been discussed and answered, please let me know. Thank you for your divine interest in Memento!

  98. Endre says:

    I have a quick thought about the remember Sammy tattoo…

    In the beginning of the movie, you see him rub the tattoo several to check if it were written in pen (I guess?)

    But later on in the movie, every time he sees it, he does not try to rub it away… Maybe he did manage to learn something?

  99. Taylor says:

    Rick,
    I didn’t see your comments sitting there to be moderated until I opened up the site via the wordpress app on my iPad. No idea why they didn’t show on the site proper. But I guess because you included links it wanted me to check them. Which is understandable, but I didn’t get an email notification or any sort of heads up. My bad amigo.

    Taylor

  100. james says:

    did everyone forget that at the somewhere in the movie (at least the one copy I have) when Leonard has a flashback about Sammy in the hospital sitting on a chair, there is a frame that quickly appears and you see that it is Leonard sitting in the chair. So maybe a definite hint from Nolan, as if to say “Leonard made it all up” ?

  101. Jane says:

    One basic question…
    Why is it that Lenny remembers only the name of his wife’s attacker ? It would make more sense if he remembers the attacker’s face or some aspect of his physical identity – given that Lenny had never seen “John G” anytime before. (If Lenny had seen the attacker before the incident he would have remembered him)

  102. james says:

    @Jane
    well simply because he lost consciousness, and when that happens your memory (short term memory) gets wiped out. you don’t recall, let’s say the last 2 hours or even day of what happened, but you would have the long lasting memories (from the long term memory.. derp) of your family, friends, loved ones, along with memories from what might have happened with them.

  103. Chuck W 3 says:

    I Believe that Lenny’s wife was killed by 1 attacker and one attacker alone. He then was psychologically scarred from this event. He felt guilty that he could not protect his wife. He then concocts this whole persona. He I believe had never lost his memory (Short or Long-term). He chose to repress the memories he wanted to and invent the ones he chose to. He wants to believe deep down that he still has meaning in his life, after he had lost the most important thing in his life. So he pretends to have this short-term memory loss in order to validate his perception; being his life has meaning. The one line that has resonated in my mind is ” You cannot alter the facts. Memories are distorted and created to match the perceptions we choose to validate within ourselves. That being said: We can not prove that Lenny had ever lost his memory, nor can we assume that there was more than one attacker. This is my interpretation of the movie. What are your thoughts?

  104. Jonny says:

    I think that the ‘I Did It’ scene is merely Lenny’s fantasy. It’s what he wished could be reality. Earlier in the film he mentions to Natalie that the space on his chest was to be left for when he had done it (killed the attacker). This thought has been with him ever since the incident and therefore he can remember thinking it. Thus, the ‘I Did It’ scene is just a snippet of Lenny’s subconscious and not an actual occurrence.

  105. james says:

    @Johnny
    This is erroneous. During the movie Teddy used him. To kill someone for Teddy, so Teddy doesn’t get his hands dirty and Lenny won’t remember it. But then Lenny’s mind tricks him into thinking that Teddy Gammell (John his real name!) [> the John G. tattoo] is his wifes killer.. Or did it? I am sure his mind knew (the mind always knows) that he solved the problem a while ago but had to choose someone to keep serving his “newly acquired” purpose. Everyone has a purpose, and his is, well, to solve. It’s one of the great miracle of the mind. His mind tricked him to keep him alive, to save him. Otherwise he would have gone crazy.

  106. dara says:

    Great blog.

    Nolan is a genius. Almost all his movies leave you scratching your head and offering you different explanations of the plot. The Prestige us also a great labyrinthian film.

    I think I go fir the literal plot explanation but really want to see that little “I did it “as I missed that first time round.

  107. glubfoot says:

    I thought it was a wonderful movie – but I think a lot of you are taking it too seriously. It was after all just a movie. And part of the point of it must surely be that we can never know what “really” happened, as memory is so unreliable (as pointed out by Lenny.). cf. The Hunting of the Snark – say something three times and it becomes true (at least to you). I’m sure my life is made up of loads of memories I have rationalized, embellished, reframed and generally changed to put myself in the best light. And others will remember things differently. And of course there are all those other memories from the film that ended up on the cutting room floor.
    I particularly liked Lenny’s memory of injecting his wife’s leg with insulin, quiclky followed by the replay of him pinching his wife’s leg. To me that was brought on by Teddy’s speech, but which memory was correct Lenny (and us) can never know.

  108. Taylor says:

    Hey Glub,
    I liked your vantage very much. I do find it funny tho that while telling us we take it way too seriously (which is probably the most obvious statement of the month) you also extend a theory of your own. I recently read a book called ‘Berore I Sleep’ that deals with a similar situation like Lenny’s memory limitation except the gal could keep her memory the entire day. And throughout the book her memory shifts and moves and it’s difficult to tell what is her disability and what is just from the pain of her past and normal rewriting that occurs to protect ourselves. It was a brilliant and clever book I highly recommend, especially to folks that liked Memento.

    Regardless, I do agree somewhat that there are aspects of this movie we can never know. Which I actually see as both a flaw and a strength simultaneously. Part of me wants to know the one key answer of the movie which is, the meaning of the ‘I Did It’ scene. But I also like that it is somewhat ragged and unknowable as well because we are flawed and imperfect creatures. So I agree, memory is messy… Which makes a messy movie. Which works for me anyway. Others? Or do you all think it has to be knowable and Nolan intended an answer? If that was the case for The Prestige I would be very mad – which I’ve documented fairly extensively out on that blog. But with Memento I’m ok with that. But that’s just me.

  109. Jane says:

    If Nolan intended an answer at least one of us would have figured it out by now.. So I believe he meant us to remain confounded :)
    I am impressed that a movie can inspire so many people to come up with so many different theories. BUT am unhappy that each and every theory can be so easily deconstructed. You could have your favourite theory and I could have mine.. But at least one theory should be plausible i.e., It should be unable to be proven wrong – even if it cannot be proven to be right.

  110. Taylor says:

    Hahah Jane,
    Love it, totally agree. But do you have one you are partial to? I think I mentioned this in the blog post (it’s been years now, can’t remember) saying that my preferred theory is any theory that gives Lenny a chance to reconnect with his still living wife regardless of the mental gymnastics necessary to make it happen. I got close there for a while, but don’t know if it’s possible. The thing that derailed me I think was the movie website. But do you guys think that is canon or not? If I stick to the movie itself it may be possible. But regardless, what is your leaning Jane if you had to pick one to head towards, or that you enjoyed more than the others?

    Taylor

  111. Jane says:

    Hi Taylor,
    Can’t swallow either theory in entirety but I do believe Lenny’s wife is definitely dead. If she had survived the attack that gave Lenny his memory loss problem he should have gotten a tattoo that said, “My wife is alive” .Or something like “Find my wife” if he suspected even remotely that she MIGHT be alive. Lenny sure is a messed up guy, but there is a method is his madness – as asserted by the tattoos and the note-taking habits.
    Wouldn’t he have made sure his wife was really dead before he made revenge his purpose in life ? Wouldn’t he be searching for his lost wife if he believed or even hoped she was alive ? Positive emotion triumphs every time, right ?

    -Jane

  112. Taylor says:

    Jane,
    Did Lenny’s wife survive the attack? It begins and ends right there. (The official site – in the medical records – state she did survive the attack. Never mind the fact that she would have to survive if you believe Lenny killed her.) The question after that is ‘did Lenny kill her with an overdose or was that just a projection?’. Right? And finally, what do you do with the ‘I Did It’ scene? I can choose – because I love my love story happy ending, or what have you – to believe that I did It scene is reality, and then all I have to do to make that happen is just say that Lenny just convinced himself (with the obvious manipulation of Teddy) he was Sammy when he actually wasn’t.

    Do I believe this? No, but not because it’s a stretch but more because it doesn’t fit. Am I missing something in the logic? I don’t think so, but am known for my grandiose theories!!
    Taylor

  113. Rick says:

    The part I’m still trying to have someone explain is why did Jimmy mutter “Sammy” while half unconscious when being dragged to the cellar? ( I posted earlier about this – page 17 I think – but lot of threads on this blog:)

    The reason it seems odd is:

    1) Teddy had no reason to be lying when confronted by Lenny (at movie order end) when he explained that there was a real Sammy. Teddy says things like “Lenny, Sammy was a con man. He was faker.” and “Sammy never had a wife.” Lenny obviously new there was a real sammy who was different than Lenny. There isn’t a reason for Teddy to lie at all here. He could state the full truth and he knows Lenny won’t remember anyway.

    2) So why does Jimmy murmor “Sammy?” No matter how I try to dice the plot, it doesn’t really make sense. Even if 1 above is wrong (which I don’t see how it could be) and there was NEVER a REAL Sammy, why does Jimmy mutter it? He just got attacked by Lenny…. even if Jimmy hung out with Teddy and Lenny and he knew Lenny mentioned Sammy all the time.. it’s still an odd thing to mutter.

  114. Jennifer says:

    So here’s another theory.
    All the tattoo’s on Lenny’s body are done to make him believe what is the truth, with that altering his memories of the past.
    But, none of the tattoos are the truth.
    There is no killer he’s looking for, he is looking for a substitute for what he has done himself.

    Lenny gives his own turn to reality and therefore twists his own memory, using the case of Sammy to forget things.
    The part where Sammy is in the instution , Lenny says Sammy doesn’t know that his wife is dead.

    When Natalie asks about Lenny’s wife, he says “She was perfect for me”, suggesting that she wasn’t perfect, probably because she had diabetes.

    I believe Sammy existed, but was faking his illness, and Lenny using this story to create his own truth, and trying to be able to alter his own memory by forgetting things on purpose.
    (which Teddy knows and says at the end of the movie – beginning of the story).

    Among Lenny’s first tattoos are “remember Sammy Jankins” and “condtition yourself”, if this two would be the first two, this would be because of Lenny wanting to forget things on purpose.
    He also wrote “remember Sammy Jankins” on the side of his hand, a place he would always be able to look at, even with his clothes on.

    None of the other tattoos can be confirmed as the truth, there are 4 facts already and fact 5 and 6 are not reliable, fact 6 is even made up to create new truth.
    Lenny knew that this facts would lead him to one person, identified as the killer of his wife.

    Further, the polaroids are evidence of what has really happened – The text underneath the pictures isn’t, these are stories made up by Lenny, therefore not reliable.

    Teddy isn’t telling the truth. We cannot confirm that he is indeed a cop;
    When Lenny goes to meet “the cop” in the lobby, Teddy shows up, knowing that Lenny won’t remember who Teddy is. But he makes sure that the man behind the couter does not see what is going on, because that man knows that Teddy isn’t a cop (he has apparantly showed up before at the motel: the man behind the counter also says during the beginning of the movie “I thought he was a friend”, suggesting Teddy has been there before, but not as a cop).
    Also Teddy hasn’t got a gun, it’s Jimmy’s gun we see during the story.

    Teddy and Natalie are only in it for the money and know how to take advantage of Lenny’s memory loss.
    Lenny doesn’t know he killed Jimmy, Natalie does, she says Lenny has helped her, so now she’s helping him.
    By tracking the license plate she sees it’s from Teddy, she thinks Teddy has the money from the drugdeal, therefore she won’t mind if Lenny kills Teddy too.

    Just my 2 cents of how I saw it.

  115. james says:

    the scene that says “I did it” could either be for 1) Lenny killing his wife or 2) Lenny killing the murderer.

  116. Jane says:

    If the ‘I did it’ tattoo means “I killed my wife” – why should Lenny get such a tattoo at all ? It would be a very painful thing for him to remember.. And we do know Lenny lies to himself to be happy. If he did kill his wife by an unintentional insulin overdose he could have simply forgotten it – which is very easy for him to do !

  117. Taylor says:

    The part I’m still trying to have someone explain is why did Jimmy mutter “Sammy” while half unconscious when being dragged to the cellar?

    Hey there Rick, thanks for being persistent. I’m sorry that I missed your comment originally. I have tried to let this runaway board blossom on its own a bit. Seems there is a bit of a minor community thing going on here. Actually, with the release of dark knight rises (see my review ) the page visits for this post have doubled to about a couple thousand a day. Kinda crazy actually. But welcome!

    But I digress. Here’s my only thought on Jimmmy’s muttering Sammy. Maybe Jimmy and Lenny are acquaintances or at the very least he’s aware of Lenny. After all he’s the memory guy everyone seems to know about. Maybe even Jimmy has spoken with Teddy? Or maybe this is the proof he had to of. That or he definitely has spoken with Lenny in detail. Either way it shows a level of intimacy that we were not privy to. So why would he say it? It was his last defense maybe? Lenny, you killed her. You are on a witch hunt. Don’t kill me.

    And that’s all I got. Yes, no? Seems to logically follow to me.

  118. Taylor says:

    James,
    Lenny says outright that he is saving this spot on his chest so that once he finally gets the killer he can put “I did it” there. But you are right, it is a poetic thing that he may be right on both counts – he got the ‘killer’ and he also killed his wife. If you believe the Sammy Jenkis side of things. But the double meaning is just a meta-hint, a tip off that all might not be well in what it is we are being told.

    Also, just for kicks – I went looking online for all the tattoos Lenny had and then tried to figure out how many of them might have been lies. It quickly became a regressive Alice in Wonderland experience. But of the 26 (or 27 if you count I did it) tattoos almost all of the are generic… eat, trust no one, get film, and the like. The central tattoos that matter to the film really are just the 1-6 evidence tattoos and whether you believe those to be lies just depends on your thoughts on where Lenny learned about John G. Originally. (the official site seems to indicate that Lenny knew of a John G. While in the hospital and that he was obsessed with a second attacker.)

  119. james says:

    John G is the real name of Teddy Gamell isn’t it ? Teddy is the nickname given to him. At least that’s how it unfolds in the film.
    I just thought, when he recalls events or analysis, the name ” Sammy ” ( Sammy Jenkins ) always comes up in his mind – out loud in the movie -, which could mean that Sammy was a pure invention from his mind. He never existed, Lenny killed his wife. But it’s so painful to admit/remember, that his mind made a side story (again, as some sort of mental protection). His mind is locked on ‘revenge’ on an absent killer, which is why he is always going to find a ‘killer’… I wish there was a sequel to it, or another perspective of Memento (from another character’s point of view, for example, the life of Teddy or Natalie).
    Still, a great movie from Nolan :3

  120. glubfoot says:

    Or maybe Sammy is Lenny’s real name, and Jimmy used to sell him drugs

  121. glubfoot says:

    PS. Have you seen “Primer” – now that’s a film to deconstruct

  122. Taylor says:

    Glub,
    Funny you mention it – have you seen my top 10 mind job list? Primer is number 1. Hehe. But yeah, I have the review/devonstruction half written – but it’s such a mindjob I would like to photoshop some visuals for it and that requires epic time for a movie like Primer. Good idea though. It’s an amazing movie!

  123. james says:

    Glubfoot,

    Yes I have seen Primer few times. I love it. It’s on my HDD, along with Memento and another great movie called Time Crimes, which is really good like Primer on the fact that you lose your mind.

  124. andy says:

    having just witness this film for the first time, does anybody think the whole story is designed to make us feel like we have the same condition? i.e its so complicated that we can barely follow and keep track of what just happened? there is so much mental gymnastics involved that it screws with our heads thus creating the same condition within us and the only continuity for us as the viewer is what happened before his wifes “death”. as much as i’d love there to be a full anwer as to what happened i think it is all part of an incredible experience into what its like to be inflicted with this condition.

    for instance whilst i was watching:

    1. i could barely remember what just happened.
    2. the only thing i remembered throughout the entirety of the film were the scenes of him and his wife before the “event”.

    just putting it out there

  125. Double says:

    Good god I love this Website and this Post! Ive been reading all these comments and theyre just wow! Im glad there are other people out there that appreciate a good Mind Fuck :]

    Anyway In regards to the theory that Lenny inadvertantly killed his wife and then suppressed his memory through guilt. Im curious to know how itd be possible for him to overdose his wife when he didnt have the condition? How could he possibly kill his wife accidentally while being physically stable.

    Perhaps Lenny had spite for his wife and killed her purposefully, Only to realize the mistake he had made afterwards? I look at the scenes where he is remembering his wife in the kitchen and around their house. Catherine didnt look very happy in a few of those scenes.

    Also when he asks her why she is reading the book again. Their conversation seems to have a bit of tension within it, especially from Catherine when she calls him a prick. Could the happy memories that we are shown of Lenny and Catherine just be another falsity made up in Lenny’s head?

    Someone please sound off on this!

  126. Taylor says:

    Heheheh,
    Hey Double – glad you are enjoying the site. I think whether Lenny had the condition or not is the question. This theory assumes they both survived the attack and Lenny came out scarred mentally by the attack. He then inadvertently killed his wife through the overdose. Afterwards Lenny then pushed blame away by associating the memory with either a fake client named Sammy or real. Right? Does that make sense?

    I’ve always read the animosity between the two was caused by Catherine’s dissatisfaction with Lenny’s condition and their relationship as a result. This then caused her to doubt his condition and then fatally test him to see if he was truly incapacitated in this way. Everyone, feel free to disagree if I’ve missed it.

    Welcome to the party Double…
    Taylor

  127. Taylor says:

    By the way – did you guys all see my primer post over here: http://taylorholmes.com/2012/07/27/a-primer-movie-primer/ – I am like DYING to find out what you all thought of it. Come on gang. Chop chop! Throw me under the bus already. I need to know if I’m totally missing it on this movie! hahah.

    Taylor
    ps – Josh, amazing post. Working through it… hopefully will have a response for you soon!! Man you guys are awesome.

  128. Laura says:

    I just watched this for the first time. And my gut reaction was that Lenny arbitrarily killed Teddy with no evidence as well as Jimmy. Although it is so open ended due to the flash backs of his wife when she was being pinched or diabetic.

  129. Stevey says:

    I have read the whole article and most of the comments, also noting that this is about two years old, hopefully someone will see this. I can agree with all of the theories as well as some reader comment theories but the one thing that I cannot grasp is that:

    – When the rape and murder scene happens, Lenny is tattoo free.
    – At the end of the movie, you see him and his wife cuddling and he is covered in tattoos most notably the “John G killed and murdered your wife” tattoo across his chest.

    This leads me to believe the “Disney” theory when in fact it was probably the least likely one to me when reading the article.

  130. MementoMori says:

    Here’s a wild guess…

    When the attack takes place Leonard’s wife gets raped but not murdered. After the bang on the head Leonard truly develops the condition he’s talking about.

    Enter Teddy, a rotten cop seeing his opportunity and seizing it. He starts using Leonard while ‘helping’ him get his wife’s rapist. When Leonard kills the first John G he tattoos “I’ve Done It” on his chest (as in ‘I’ve accomplished my mission’, in contrast to “I Did It” which would mean ‘I am guilty, I murdered my wife’). He then goes on to live with his wife (the scene at the end of the movie is thus real).

    Leonard’s wife however cannot cope with her husband’s condition and wants him to ‘snap out of it’, so she puts him through the ultimate test. He goes on to accidentally kill her with insulin. Upon realizing what he’s done, he ironically does snap out of his condition, only to further realize he cannot possibly live bearing such guilt. The trauma of his murdering his own wife leads to a relapse of sorts, where he blocks out the episode (and later blends it into Sammy’s story)—Leonard is now on a path to believing his wife has been raped *and* killed by the attacker. He removes the “I’ve Done It” tattoo, as well as the pages from the police file, all to make himself forget. He blocks out (or alters) all the details that could make him remember the truth, along with facts such as his wife being a diabetic. Institutionalized for his wife’s murder, he uses the time to cement his belief that he still has his condition and the killer is still out there waiting to be found and brought to justice.

    Teddy helps Leonard get out of the mental institution in order to use him for his own agenda, whatever this may be. Leonard of course falls right back into rhythm looking for his wife’s killer, now without the crucial tattoo and convinced he hasn’t accomplished his mission. When at the end of the movie (beginning of the story) Teddy gets fed up and reveals too much, it triggers long repressed truths in Leonard’s mind, leaving him with no choice but to kill Teddy so he could continue running away from the painful truth he can’t handle—by killing one more John G. He would then start it all over again…

    I admit (if you can’t tell) that I have only watched the movie once and I haven’t thought this one through all the way, so there are likely numerous holes in my fantastical theory. I haven’t read all the other (and probably way more credible) theories suggested here either; I don’t know if a similar scenario has been elaborated on or not. But I would appreciate more thoughts on the matter, so tell me where I’m wrong and what I’m missing.

  131. jayne says:

    I’ve loved reading these posts. I got a lot of my questions answered. Like why the killing Jimmy scene was in b&w, then morphed into color (because the two story lines merge into time there.) I spent a long time wondering about that one! Here’s my take:

    1. Lenny really does have a memory problem. It happened when he was hit on the head during the attack.

    2. There was a real Sammy, who was a con man. Lenny merged his wife’s death into his Sammy memories to avoid facing what he had done. His tattoos and behavior show he is constantly conditioning himself to remember Sammy in a way that reinforces the story he wants to believe. (After all there is no way anyone could have known what Sammy’s wife did. Sammy doesn’t remember. All anyone would know is that Sammy’s wife had too much insulin in her blood. This clearly is a made-up “memory.”)

    3. I remain unclear about Lenny’s relationship with his wife. Despite all his talk of love, his memories of her aren’t very loving. I agree that there’s a nice symbolism in the book reading scene. It doesn’t matter if Lenny really loved his wife or not. Since he needs a reason to live, to believe his life has meaning, he needs to believe it was a grand, deep love.

    4. The photo of a much younger looking Lenny pointing at his chest after supposedly killing the first, and real, John G. is odd. Lenny looks much younger than just year before. And he has much fewer tattoos. Either way, since he quickly forgot he had killed John G. (and he didn’t want to remember anyway), he didn’t get his final tattoo.

    5. There are connections among all these people that we don’t know about. Although Jimmy may have met Lenny only very casually. You wouldn’t forget a guy like this and you wouldn’t be very afraid of him even if you’d met only once.

    6. Jimmy saying the name Sammy. Perhaps this was just in Lenny’s imagination. It’s certainly the easiest explanation. How could Jimmy be saying anything? He was just strangled. If he’s talking, he’s breathing. So would he die? And I’m sure Nolan and his brother would totally enjoy throwing out this red herring.

    7. The “I’ve done it” tattoo is a fantasy as is his wife’s happy, loving face. We’ve never seen her like this. Lenny describes his marriage as loving, but what do the visuals show you. And what does Lenny say to believe: not memories, the facts. And photos are one of his primary “facts.”

    8. Trust the snippets more than the scenes. In other words, trust the snippet of Lenny’s face in the mental institution. Trust the brief flash of Lenny giving his wife an insulin shot. Does Lenny flash on his wife while he’s attacking Jimmy because in he’s killing someone and it brings back killing his wife?

    9. Not every teeny tiny detail probably fits. Although I think Nolan has worked very hard to make 99.9% of this fit, there are a few details that are poetic license or red herrings. There are inconsistencies that are very hard to explain including Lenny remembering that the license plate is Fact 6. He might remember a sort of major rule–take pictures, trust no one, write down what you want to remember–but he would be remembering much further back than his short-term memory would allow to remember that this was Fact 6. And, again, I don’t believe he was faking. I think this is an example of poetic license. It just makes for a more dramatic scene.

  132. jayne says:

    I know no one is probably checking in here anymore, but even so I gotta take back my saying that Lenny writing Clue #6 on his note to himself was just artistic license. It’s the proof, the confirmation that Lenny’s condition is purely psychological. His memory lasts way too long in that scene. He’s just been confronted with the truth and for his psychological survival he needs to nail this thing down. So he remembers just fine. He remembers what Teddy told him, keeps it together long enough to set up his plan, remembers it all the way into town, then screeches to a halt in front of the tattoo parlor. Right where the viewer comes in, which is when Lenny kicks back into short term memory mode.

  133. Jane says:

    @jayne : We are checking in here, no doubt ! Never tire of discussing Nolan movies :)
    BTW, love the observation you have made in point #3. I never considered this before.

  134. Jayne!
    My apologies – I’ve been woefully behind on my responses on this thread. Let’s see if I can tackle your assertions one by one:

    1. Lenny really does have a memory problem. It happened when he was hit on the head during the attack.

    Yup! I agree. Definitely legit on the memory front.

    2. There was a real Sammy, who was a con man.

    Yup Yup! A con-man police officer who used Lenny to his own ends. Concur.

    Lenny merged his wife’s death into his Sammy memories to avoid facing what he had done. His tattoos and behavior show he is constantly conditioning himself to remember Sammy in a way that reinforces the story he wants to believe. (After all there is no way anyone could have known what Sammy’s wife did. Sammy doesn’t remember. All anyone would know is that Sammy’s wife had too much insulin in her blood. This clearly is a made-up “memory.”)

    This is where the complicated stuff gets going. I come and go as to whether there was actually a Sammy or not. But your line about “no one could have known” is brilliantly put. Very well argued. I buy it.

    3. I remain unclear about Lenny’s relationship with his wife. Despite all his talk of love, his memories of her aren’t very loving. I agree that there’s a nice symbolism in the book reading scene. It doesn’t matter if Lenny really loved his wife or not. Since he needs a reason to live, to believe his life has meaning, he needs to believe it was a grand, deep love.

    I personally love the romanticism of his desire to avenge his wife. So much so that I want her to still be alive – and have even manipulated the facts to try and support that end! See, I just outed myself as a fact manipulator. But with this movie its easy to do. Seriously though – I want the “I DID IT” scene to be fact, not wishful thinking. He is with her after all. Tattoo in place. Its a seminal moment in the movie. One that has to be explained one way or the other.

    4. The photo of a much younger looking Lenny pointing at his chest after supposedly killing the first, and real, John G. is odd. Lenny looks much younger than just year before. And he has much fewer tattoos. Either way, since he quickly forgot he had killed John G. (and he didn’t want to remember anyway), he didn’t get his final tattoo.

    Which supports your earlier position that Sammy was a con-man and used Lenny not just for one killing but probably multiple jobs. Right? Lenny parties a little too much and forgets to get the tattoo. Sammy needs another goon taken care of… voila we have ourselves the perfect hitman.

    5. There are connections among all these people that we don’t know about. Although Jimmy may have met Lenny only very casually. You wouldn’t forget a guy like this and you wouldn’t be very afraid of him even if you’d met only once.

    I buy that. There are sub-layers of occurrence going on here that we know nothing about. They are only hinted at obliquely but they are there constantly bubbling up to the surface. Like the first time Lenny went to the bar.

    6. Jimmy saying the name Sammy. Perhaps this was just in Lenny’s imagination. It’s certainly the easiest explanation. How could Jimmy be saying anything? He was just strangled. If he’s talking, he’s breathing. So would he die? And I’m sure Nolan and his brother would totally enjoy throwing out this red herring.

    That is an interesting one I’ve thought a lot about lately. Basically there are several flaws in Lenny’s memory deficits that makes you wonder about everything. Right? Enough that people have said it was just a psychological issue and not a physical condition.

    7. The “I’ve done it” tattoo is a fantasy as is his wife’s happy, loving face. We’ve never seen her like this. Lenny describes his marriage as loving, but what do the visuals show you. And what does Lenny say to believe: not memories, the facts. And photos are one of his primary “facts.”

    Bah! You are raining on my parade here Jayne! They are to be happy in the end! Have to be! hahaha. No, I agree, all signs point to this being myth. A constructed fantasy inserted in the middle of a lot of other mayhem and chaos. It just doesn’t jive with the truth. Right? Its a bummer, but I do agree.

    8. Trust the snippets more than the scenes. In other words, trust the snippet of Lenny’s face in the mental institution. Trust the brief flash of Lenny giving his wife an insulin shot. Does Lenny flash on his wife while he’s attacking Jimmy because in he’s killing someone and it brings back killing his wife?

    JAYNE! PULL UP YER LOSING ME,… PULL UP!!! hahaha. No I think I get what you are saying. The flashes are a view into his deep psyche which gives us a more realistic vantage point on the truth… no? I don’t know if I buy the correlating-ness of the memories – but I buy the gravitas of the memories and the more realness of them. If that makes sense.

    9. Not every teeny tiny detail probably fits. Although I think Nolan has worked very hard to make 99.9% of this fit, there are a few details that are poetic license or red herrings. There are inconsistencies that are very hard to explain including Lenny remembering that the license plate is Fact 6. He might remember a sort of major rule–take pictures, trust no one, write down what you want to remember–but he would be remembering much further back than his short-term memory would allow to remember that this was Fact 6. And, again, I don’t believe he was faking. I think this is an example of poetic license. It just makes for a more dramatic scene.

    Yes, totally. I think that the motif, or the method of the movie makes it difficult physically to just tell a story this way… and in so doing we have natural flaws that can’t really be coordinated or summed up inside this system. Some segments of the movie go on too long. Some things are memorized for too long. Sometimes the rules are bent for the larger goal of story telling. But knowing which are which in a movie like this makes it all the more difficult to understand. Especially when it could all be false…

    Thanks for codifying the nine. great job. Wonderfully insightful. So yeah, I think Lenny killed his wife. I think Sammy used Lenny to kill whomever. Two attackers. One on the loose. And Sammy used this to his own benefit. Who knows… maybe Sammy was involved in the initial attack… but that has almost become immaterial at the end. My thoughts anyway. Thanks again Jayne!

  135. Adhityaa says:

    If he had encountered Sammy before the attack, he would remember him. Then why would he have to write about Sammy on his hand to remind himself. So Sammy is a made-up thought.

  136. JBlue says:

    Oh man, just saw the movie for the first time, kind of knew that it was a movie that went “backwards”, but still Christopher Nolan got me, but thanks to this site that was the first I went to after googling “Memento Explained”, I had a better time figuring it out than I did with Inception. Still I’m probably coming up with different ways with “that” movie, but was this one great. Maybe it will help me dissecting “Flight” after I see it tomorrow (or very later today) since it kind seems like it has the same premise thought wise where a guy doesn’t know what really happens about something and is trying to piece everything back together.

  137. Dianæ says:

    Hey, I’ve just seen the film for the first time and loved it!

    Here my thoughts after reading all the theories you guys have posted so far.

    1. Lenny and his wife were in a loving marriage.
    2. Lenny led an investigation on Sammy, a guy who faked the anterograde condition in order to claim the money from his insurance.
    3. 2 guys broke into Leonard’s house, raped his wife and knocked him down. Leonard killed one, the other managed to scape.
    4. As a result, his wife got diabetes (some researches say that even an strong impression can cause diabetes 1 or 2) and Lenny got anterograde amnesia. That would explain why he doesn’t have memories of her being ill, since it happened after the assault.
    5. Teddy pops up and tries to help Lenny get and kill the real attacker.
    6. The scene with the ‘Ive done it tatto’ is real. It stands for Lenny killing the rapist. Lenny and his wife are happy together.
    7. Lenny is in therapy to recover from the amnesia.
    8. Lenny injecting his wife scene is real. But he alters this memory (after 11. in this list).
    9. Teddy sees a potential killer in Lenny, so he introduces him to Jimmy by stating drugs can help him get rid of his condition, but tell Jimmy the name of Lenny is Sammy. (That’s why he calls him Sammy while choking).
    10. His wife doubts therapy is doing any good to Lenny, and testes him ignoring she will get killed by the insulin overdose.
    11. Wife dies.
    12.Lenny is taken to a mental institution after being in shock for his wife’s death.
    13.He then recovers, but conditions himself to have the symptoms (his condition is psychic now), so he then starts mingling his life with Sammy’s, so that he can deal with pain (the pain of killing his wife). Thus changing his memories about Sammy’s wife being killed by an overdose, and his own wife being killed in the attack/rape.
    14.Teddy helps him get out of hospital.
    15.He gets the ‘I’ve done it’ tattoo removed, so that he’s got something to live for (i. e. killing his wife killer). And makes the ‘remember Sammy Jankins’ tattoo so that he can have a scapegoat for his faults.
    16.Teddy goes on using Lenny for his own purposes. And provides evidence for Lenny to believe Jimmy is the man. Just like he’s been doing God knows how long ago…
    17.Natalie knows Jimmy is being chased by Teddy, so when Lenny shows up in his car and whit his clothes she’s not surprised at all. But seeks revenge on Dodd, being Jimmy’s boss. So that she can get hands on the money.
    18.Teddy breaks the bare truth about Lenny trying to make sense of his life and building up his own realit each time.
    19.Lenny decides it’s fair to kill Teddy, who’s the only one who knows the rapist was dead long ago. (So that, there’s no way Lenny can’t start all over again). Besides, he’s conscious Teddy has been using him to pull the trigger before.
    20.Natalie then plots Dodd’s death at Lenny’s hands.
    We all know how it ends…

    I know I’m late to this topic. But I really would appreciate your views on this.

    Dianæ

  138. Cvetko says:

    Dianæ
    Totally agree with you!
    Have you watched Shutter Island? The main characters in these two movies are so similar :)
    Anyway, why did Teddy say ‘No’ and make a sudden movement at the end of the story and get himself killed? I think Lenny was willing to go down and see what’s in the basement… :/

  139. Dianæ says:

    Hi Cvetko.

    Thanks for your reply =)

    I’ve seen Shutter Island before watching Memento and yes, I did think of DiCaprio’s Teddy while getting to know more about Leonard (Pierce). The way both of them manage to keep an altered state of mind to deal with the painful truth of hurting what they most value in life. Quite interesting!

    Just like some shout and shut their eyes when they know they’re going to be hit.Teddy said ‘No’ and turned around as a reflex when he realised there was no way out for him. He learnt from Lenny’s eyes he was to die. I think is the most common reaction to an attack, people beg for their lives: ‘no. Please don’t kill me…’

    What do you think about it?

    Dianæ

  140. Clark says:

    Great, neat analysis this website presents. Everything that happened or might have happened step-by-step. Thanks man. As for Dianæ’s conclusion, its really good and interesting.

  141. Chimein says:

    On another website there is an issue with Lenny being Sammy because of the age difference. By the way, I love your clips you posted of both of them at the mental institution because a lot of people seemed to have miss that. It is too coincidental. Nolan took his viewers into account that most of us don’t know anyone with this condition. Like an earlier poster mentioned, what are the chances of two people having this condition that know one another when most of us don’t even know one person with it? Even then people still want to believe that there is a real Sammy. Under that premise, what was the purpose of the scene at the mental institution that shows Sammy and then Lenny? Then people want to still hold on to this “real Sammy” belief in part which I can’t see why somebody would take a real person and make up only parts about him? It makes more sense that he would have made up the whole person.

    The reason why I believe that there is such an age difference between Lenny and Sammy is the passage of time which he is also lying to himself about. He actually physically looks like Sammy at this point but sees himself in appearance as a young looking Sammy. Also, I believe that several years could have passed and he was actually Sammy’s age when he killed his wife like he described it. Also, the simple explanation for Jimmy calling him Sammy is well, he knew he was Sammy because he knew Lenny/Sammy.

    In his mind theory: He may have never escaped the mental institution and all of this is taking place in his mind. I mean, all of the events after he killed his wife and was institutionalized as a result. I feel that if he indeed escaped the mental institution, the escape scene would be in the movie. Some posters are just mentioning that he escaped like it is an easy thing to do as easy as just walking out. The only way I see that as being feasible is that Teddy helped him escape and if Teddy helped, I can see why he is telling him how dangerous it is that he is hanging around. It is the risk of the authorities recognizing him and throwing him back in the mental institution.

    Attack in his mind theory: He also my have made up the whole attack and rape scene. He could have had a mental condition all along and that is why he was not component enough to dose his wife correctly. His condition was not necessarily a result of “the attack”.

  142. Hello says:

    well, in case sammy is lenny, and lenny invented sammy as a scapegoat, then the so called incident musnt have happened while his wife died, maybe due to lenny giving her too much insulin. the incident that let to his condition could have occured later on. so it is possible. also when teddy tells lenny in the end, that his wife has diabetes, and lenny denies that, this could related to the fact, that sammy maybe faked his condition, or put himself in a mental state to not build long term memory.

  143. Ric says:

    I think I understand the movie ok but there are couple of things that puzzle me still. Why did Lenny have the tattoo “John G raped and murdered my wife” in the flashbacks when he was with his wife. One example is when his mind flashes back just before the end of the movie. Also not sure where Dodd fits in – he seems to be a loose end.

    I have no doubt that Natalie plotted for Lenny to kill Teddy to avenge the murder of Jimmy which Teddy had plotted.

  144. Derek says:

    Ric,

    I’m the same as you. I’ve read alot of background on the movie and the discusiion on this board has helped me close all the loose ends except for the “John G raped and killed murdered my wife” tattoo that Lenny has throughout the movie.

  145. Derek says:

    Sorry, top post got cut off…

    What I was saying is that me and a few buddies have all seen the movie multiple times and we all kinda agreed that it served as his “motivation” after the accident. Lenny says a few times that he’s not a murderer and I think he’s actually a pretty good guy (for example, he says sorry for accidentally kicking the wrong hotel room door in, he chases Dodd out of town rather than kill him,he jokes with the hotel clerk Burt even after he finds out he’s been hustling him and charging him for multiple rooms, he gives Mrs.Jankins his honest opinion on Sammy to help her get closure). Teddy even acknowledges that the only way Lenny will kill a person is if he is convinced they are the John G. he’s looking for.

    With Lenny’s memory constantly resetting after the accident, he would keep losing his motivation to find/kill John G because discovering that his wife was in fact still alive would continually divert his attention. However, his wife, also wanting John G dead because he’s responsible for taking the REAL Lenny from her and thinking the closure from killing him might cure Lenny’s illness, would go along with the plan of him getting an untrue tattoo (well,half untrue) that she was raped and murdered because the false belief that her death needs to be avenged is the only way for Lenny to stay focused on finding John G due to his condition. This is the first tattoo Lenny ever gets.

    This is when Lenny and Teddy would leave together on their mission to kill the real John G,leaving Lenny’s still very much alive wife at home. Without his wife constantly by his side to remind him that she’s alive, Lenny would falsely believe this untrue tattoo everytime his memory reset and would stay dricen to kill John G while with Teddy. They kill the real John G and Teddy takes the polaroid of Lenny happily pointing to his blank chest with the “John G murdered” tattoo right above it. After Lenny kills John G and returns home to his still breathing/newly diabetic wife he gets the “I did it” tattoo to celebrate his accomplishment. This would explain the scene of them together happily in bed with both the “John G murdered” tattoo and the “I did it tattoo” on his chest. If by any chance Lenny looked down and saw the untrue John G tattoo he would also see the “I did it” one as well, and his wife would still be alive to explain them both to him.

    With his mission accomplished and no other motivation in life Lenny than began to waste away in front of the TV stupidly watching shows he would forget a moment later. His wife is devastated even though they have their revenge because the tattoo plan didn’t cure Lenny as she planned. She decides to hide food from Lenny and even goes to the extreme of testing Lenny with her insulin as she further attempts to cure him. Her death sends him into a guilt/depression/suicidal tail spin and he winds up in the mental institution. Either he or Teddy then came up with the idea to have the “I did it” tattoo removed so that his life would have purpose again and he wouldn’t just waste away in the institution. Teddy kept the smiling picture after they killed John G because he knew he would have to constantly convince Lenny that it actually happened as they moved on to there new corrupt cop/hitman lifestyle together.

    The “John G raped and murdered my wife” tattoo is untrue and always has been. But as Nolan reinforces by constantly showing Lenny reveal it in scenes, it is ultimately the only real purpose Lenny has in life since the accident and serves as the driving force in Lenny’s life. Without the false tattoo Lenny would just waste away in front of a TV all day stupidly rewatching shows and commercials until he died in an institution. And as Teddy says, what does it matter if the tattoo’s a lie, we all lie to ourselves anyway

  146. Esmoralda says:

    Theory #3 is correct : Lenny has once recognized he has killed his wife himself, thats why he had “I did it” tattooed, but since his short term memory fades away he needs to go through trial and error each time he forgets the real story, and thats what makes all those adventures in the movie !

  147. rick says:

    Why did Lenny steal and change into Jimmy’s clothes after he killed him?

  148. Keemy says:

    I feel like the Lenny’s mind was preventing him from seeing the i’ve done it on his chest much like a hypnotist can make you perceive objects disappearing

  149. Josh says:

    what i don’t understand, regardless of which theory is chosen, is why the “raped and murdered my wife” tattoo is in the same scene as the “I did it” tattoo which depicted his wife very much alive and with him during that flashback scene as he went to the tattoo parlor at the end…if she was alive, why did he tattoo that on himself and why did his wife let him do so if she wasn’t dead at that time?

  150. Burt says:

    Great site! Upon my review, Lenny’s wife survives the rape. Lenny’s head is slammed in the attack and his memory disorder begins (most likely anterograde amnesia). Lenny later kills his wife via insulin overdose. Unable to care for himself, he is institutionalized. As a coping mechanism, Lenny modifies his memory of Sammy (an insurance con-man he investigated in his previous career) to assign the overdosing trauma to Sammy (note that his wrist-tattoo is in cursive (like his note on Natalie’s photo—a signal to himself that the reference is unreliable)). See also Wikipedia on Henry Molaison (a similar case):

    “Near the end of his life, Molaison regularly filled in crossword puzzles. He was able to fill in answers to clues that referred to pre-1953 knowledge. For post-1953 information he was able to modify old memories with new information. For instance, he could add a memory about Jonas Salk by modifying his memory of polio.”

    This memory modification theory also works to explain Lenny’s detailed knowledge of the psychological testing “Sammy” went through (an insurance investigator would most likely not delve into that level of detail).

    Teddy, the police investigator, rescues Lenny from the institution and uses him for his own dirty-work after he helps Lenny kill the real “John G” (most likely for initial altruistic purposes). See photo of Lenny after killing first John G. Later, Natalie learns about how Teddy uses Lenny and uses him herself to get rid of Dodd. She also manipulated Lenny to turn the tables on Teddy by telling Lenny that he was involved with her husband/friends murder and ultimately that Teddy is “John G”. She may have also been motivated by the $200k from, and vengeance for, Jimmy.

    The “I did it” scene/tattoo can only be a fantasy constructed by Lenny representing what he thinks he will feel once he avenges his wife’s death (otherwise, how could she still be alive when he has the “John G raped and murdered my wife tattoo). I have concerns re the timing and or trigger of Lenny’s memory lapses—the timing feels inconsistent.

    Yet, there are not enough facts to explain Jimmy’s involvement and how he knows Lenny, Sammy, or Teddy, or why Nolan jumps to several scenes of Lenny’s wife as Jimmy is entering the building of his demise. Moreover, I feel there is a whole sub-story that was not adequately explained (e.g., why Lenny took Jimmy’s car and clothes; how Natalie knew Lenny when he entered the bar). In closing, this is a great film. I would very much enjoy your comments on this analysis.

  151. Michael says:

    ^^ @Burt, Natalie knows Lenny when he walks into the bar because he is wearing Jimmy’s clothes. The whole reason he is there is because he found the coaster with Natalie’s name on it in Jimmy’s coat pocket.

  152. Jtleroy says:

    First of all I’m really enjoying reading all these theories, some of them are so crazy but in some way each one makes sense.

    I read half of the comment so I don’t know if someone has already said what I’m about to say.

    The ‘I have done it’ scene. In my opinion in that scene he is dead. He finally killed the man who killed his wife: himself.
    Finally he committed suicide and found peace, rejoined with his wife, in their own bed, not afraid of finding her side cold.

    ^^

  153. Jtleroy says:

    Ok, I read all the comments now and I still have two questions.

    1) why on hell Lenny wears Jimmy’s clothes? Because they’re expensive? It doesn’t seem a thing that Lenny would do. Even Teddy tries to see if Jimmy’s shoe fit him. But he’s greedy. He wants the money, that’s his purpose. But why Lenny?!

    2) If Lenny knows Teddy from a long time how come he doesn’t already have a polaroid of him?

    I really loved when somebody said that maybe Teddy isn’t totally real. In fact I am always surprised how Teddy is almost always present and we have the impression the run into each other by chance. But instead he waits for Lenny in the car, he jumps out when Lenny gets in the car after he spent the night at Natalie’s. And so on. He’s always present.

    And he’s a little bit Sammy too. I think it was GENIUS who wrote that he wanted to be called Leonard because Lenny “remembers” him of his real name and how is wife used to call him (Sammy).

    So, unifying all this I would say that at end of the storyline (begin of the movie) he has a blast. This Teddy (that maybe is a part of himself) keeps telling him the truth about he killing his wife and how he doesn’t want to remember (the Sammy part in Lenny).

    So he kills him. But he’s really killing himself. And then we have the ‘I have Done It’ scene. Lenny and his wife are both dead (in this way the tattoo that says that his wife was killed can be consistent with her being next to him) and the real killer of his wife is dead too: this being Lenny.

    Then these are my 2 cents. I would like too know your thoughts about it and about my 2 question.

    Great blog!

  154. Memory Man says:

    • When Lenny decides to make Teddy his “John G”, he writes down his licence plate incorrectly!

    In chronological order of the timeline Lenny does this early on. He notes down Teddy’s licence number as being “SG1371U” yet we clearly see that it is “SG137IU”. He then has this false information Tattooed on his left leg at the Tattoo parlor. He also sees in the report about Teddy that the information regarding his licence plate differs from what he has tattooed, yet he doesn’t pay attention. Finally Nolan gives us a very subtle but clear indication of Teddy’s licence number later on in the movie chronologically (when they put Dodd in the car and Teddy follows), but this time it has changed to what Lenny had initially written down as the false licence number.

    This to me is simply an indication that Leonard can manipulate his mind and memory to see things the way he wants them to be, not necessarily the way the facts actually are. During that scene he can even visualize Teddy’s car with the wrong license plate, and horrifyingly enough we the viewer’s vividly do as well and accept it subconsciously. Learning through repetition. Conditioning ourselves to forget the truth, who cares if the “1” is actually and “I”. See it a few times as “1” and it doesn’t even matter to us anymore.

  155. Memory Man says:

    By the way Dear Mr. Taylor Holmes, I hope that maybe at some stage you might come cross my recent post. I saw that the last one came in on January and I’m afraid of the hopes of breaking down Memento fading, so I just wanted to throw out one little hint out there that might interest someone to share some of their ideas.

    I really think that we can nail the bottom end of the truth, and would gladly share more of my personal views on the topic if it would bring people back into the discussion of Analyzing Memento once more.

    I wish you all the best, take care.

    Memory Man

  156. Memory Man says:

    In the hopes of trying to revive the discussion on the Memento topic I thought that I might throw in another clue that baffles me a little as well and I still don’t have a full grasp on it, but hopefully with a little help from everyone some light might be shed.

    • The tattoos that Lenny has on his body, written through a Professional Tattooist, signify facts that he himself has gathered and has gone to the Tattoo parlor with. Meanwhile, every single Tattoo that is done in his scribbly handwriting contains information given to him through an anonymous phone caller (supposedly Teddy, perhaps a 2nd person as well)!

    Tattoos done by Leonard himself are as follows (Probably a few more as well, this is not a complete list): “Drug Dealer”, “John G. Raped and murdered my wife”, “James”, “Remember Sammy Jenkis”.

    Now the one thing that I may conclude in regards to this information is that both sets of Tattoo styles are unreliable in terms of FACT, one way or another. However, the ones that were done by Lenny himself, seem to be working more in favor of the anonymous caller (i.e. Teddy).

    Drug Dealer: Information that Lenny concluded to, only after being on the phone with the anonymous caller. Prior to this he had written down Access to Drugs (perhaps from a previous conversation on the phone).

    John G. Raped and murdered my wife: This I don’t think we can be certain of as we don’t know exactly when Lenny made this Tattoo, but we could make an assumption that it was information he got only after speaking with someone.

    James: This is a intriguingly interesting one for me as it particularly makes Jimmy a good target for murder. I’m willing to lay my 1 cent’s worth here that Lenny might have gotten this second name over the phone, and in order not to forget it quickly, did the Tattooing himself. It seems that someone knows Lenny’s conditioning well (Teddy?) and is using it to puppeteer and steer Leonard into a direction that suits the anonymous caller, and do his dirty work.

    Remember Sammy Jenkis: Now this Tattoo I think could have been done by Lenny himself just so that he can quickly condition himself to overlap his wife’s unfortunate insulin overdose onto Sammy’s character quickly, every 15 minute period if necessary. It is after all working to Lenny’s benefit, so I don’t think it due to an anonymous caller’s advice.

    Lenny had obviously found something or saw something that made him not trust talking over the phone. So he had the tattoo “NEVER ANSWER THE PHONE” professionally and vividly marked on him. However, he didn’t immediately notice it as it still had dressing wraps around it. The caller must sense after Lenny hangs up (upon seeing his tattoo), that he can’t spoon feed Leonard anymore information through a phone, and will have to do it in person.

    Makes me wonder how close this anonymous caller (i.e. Teddy?) is? He manages to slip a letter under the door quickly enough, and also arrives to meet Lenny down in the lobby pretty much right after Leonard has hung up the phone. Begs the question of is he calling from a nearby payphone on the street, or does he actually have another room booked in right within the Discount Inn.?

    I’m starting to tread far off the point (if I have made any) here, but I’m writing as it comes to me. So hopefully I have said something useful. Looking forward to any new opinions, views and most of all help.

    Memento Man

  157. taylor says:

    memory man – still reading. but i loved the flip flopping of the license plate detail. i have got to go back and see that for myself. screen scrapes of that detail would be brilliant. hrmmm. do you have scrapes? that would be brilliant to post those.

    BECAUSE, if true, it shows exactly what you stated. Not only is his memory flawed. But so are his powers of perception. Which basically means we should pack the blog up and go home. HAHAH. If everything is unclear… then we can’t really know anything.

    And if the license plates are true – like @memoryman said, then it would INSTANTANEOUSLY explain the ‘I Did It’ tattoo. Makes perfect sense. His memory is just as flawed as his reality at the moment of perception. Not only that, but his powers of optimism are the only thing that truly define what it is that he experiences.

    Nicely done Memory…

  158. Memory Man says:

    Dear Taylor Holmes,

    As you have asked, I have found as many pictures as I could find, in order to help illustrate this important scene for anyone that might have missed it. I will work all of these events in a chronological order of the film, (Black & White scenes to the color scenes, which end the film with Lenny shooting Teddy) in order to make it easier for the reader to grasp the message here.

    http://www.christophernolan.net/images/memento_mem_plate_db.jpg

    1. Here we see Lenny visualizing Teddy’s licence number for the first time. This is right after Lenny had thrown Teddy’s keys in the bushes.

    http://www.christophernolan.net/images/memento_mem_note.jpg

    2. While Teddy is still searching for his keys, we clearly see Lenny jotting down Teddy’s licence plate number one letter/digit at a time. If we look closely however, he makes one crucial mistake! He misplaces the “I”, for a “1” in his note. So far I guess we’re all thinking this is a factual error. However…

    http://www.christophernolan.net/images/memento_mem_tattoo.jpg

    3. Now here we see that he has gotten the wrong license number tattoed on him in the Tattoo Parlor. The tattoo on his left leg still misplaces the “I” for a “1”, and not only that, but it is written off as Fact 6. There is one further part to this,( which I could not find an image for Sorry!), where right after Lenny reveals this Fact 6 tattoo, he checks his folder for the document which reveals a copy of Teddy’s driver’s licence document. In it it once more states the original number “SG137IU”, but Lenny once more brushes over this fact (even though he can see it right in front of him” and reads it as “SG1371U”.

    http://www.christophernolan.net/images/memento_mem_plate_mi.jpg

    4. This is the fourth image that I have and it is the most vital one. It is seen right before Lenny and Teddy, march Dodd out of town. When Teddy reverses his car out of the park, we the audience now clearly see that the licence plate number has changed to an “1” at the end. Just as Lenny had wrongfully written it down. The original licence number that we all could see was “SG137IU”, but now it reads “SG1371U”.

    Now if anyone out there still might believe that this has no relevance that Lenny is actually altering relating, and changing it mentally to the way he sees fit, I’ll share this next image with you.

    http://www.christophernolan.net/images/memento_mem_plate_s.jpg

    This is a direct copy of Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan’s final draft script. It clearly indicates that Nolan’s intentions are to have very close attention paid to the switching of the “I” to a “1”.

    I hope you may find some of this information useful. I also have two other pieces of evidence that Lenny carries with him in, but they also have been manipulated to look different in later shots of the film. The “Come by after Natalie” coaster.

    First seen at 1:23:42 of the film (Original version, not Chronological!)

    http://thegreatworkbegins.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/photo-3a.jpg?w=560

    Then it changes to this at 1:32:43 of the film.

    http://thegreatworkbegins.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/photo-3b.jpg?w=560

    Once again we see objects clearly held by Lenny that have been manipulated and changed.
    By the way pay close attention to the writing on the first Coaster, it is two different handwriting styles. i.e. could it be forged by Teddy?

    The 2nd instance of manipulating hard evidence is seen in these next two shots where Lenny sees a photo of Natalie, and Jimmy. The first shot presented below is seen at 35:43 of the film.

    http://thegreatworkbegins.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/photo-1a.jpg?w=560

    The 2nd shot below, is seen at 38:19 of the film.

    http://thegreatworkbegins.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/photo-1b.jpg?w=560

    Once again manipulated in Lenny’s mind. We see that Jimmy does not have a goatie in the later one (first chronologically), and also Natalie has her hand around him.

    I think that is about it from me for now. I hope that this information might be useful, and could provide way for further evidence to be shed by anyone.

    Memori Man

  159. Memory Man says:

    Dear Taylor Holmes Blog,

    In regards to the sometimes highly controversial question of whether Lenny might actually be portraying his life’s events upon the con man Sammy Jankins, I have decided to list a couple of hints left in I think by Christopher Nolan in order for the viewers to solidify this notion.

    1. Undoubtedly the most obvious, yet subtle hint given to us in the split second, superimposed shot of Lenny sitting down in the mental institution, rather than Sammy.

    2. This next one is quite subtle, but I think just as important as the previous, if not more. If we forward the movie to the scene where Sammy’s wife gives him his final exam (overdosing her on Insulin), we see Sammy’s wife asking him for her 1st daily shot. She then rewinds her wristwatch from 3:15 p.m. back to 3:00 p.m. exactly. This is exactly a quarter of an hour, and she does this 2-3 times equivalent to the number of times Sammy gives her an Insulin shot. Why does she do this? Why is it important? First of all it is stated by Lenny that Sammy’s condition is that “he can’t remember anything for more than a couple of minute” (2 mins), hence why he only likes commercials: “anything more gets too confusing”. Yet Lenny’s condition we know is that, he can’t remember anything over a 15 mins period (sometimes slightly less by a minute or two if he’s under pressure). So why would Sammy’s wife wind her watch back 15 mins, when she could have set it back only 2 mins, before getting Sammy to administer her next Insulin shot!!! (3:02 back to 3:00) The answer lies to me clearly in the fact that Nolan’s portraying Lenny’s life and wife, not Sammy’s to the audience.

    3. Now this third hint is almost an opposite take on the last one. When Lenny is welcomed in to Natalie’s house for the first time, they talk a little and then she leaves him for a while. We see Lenny turning on her T.V., noticing his “Remember Sammy Jankins” tattoo, and then with the remote control he switches the channel from a film playing to a short T.V. commercial. Here again we know that Lenny’s memory can last up to 15 mins, why does he prefer to switch to the commercial. Once more, is the great and highly talented Mr. Nolan implying that Sammy’s story is actually Lenny’s and Leonard just keeps trying to suppress this Fact.

    4. The “Remember Sammy Jankis” tattoo is one great clue to the way that Leonard handles his situation. The Tattoo is part of Lenny’s conditioning process. That way he immediately is able to remind himself (during his memory’s every 15 mins reset) of the mental construct that he has created about Sammy, in order to take the guilt of himself. Since we know that Sammy was a real person (through Teddy’s story), Lenny has then pushed his experiences onto Sammy’s character. The tattoo is Leonard Shelby’s “Memento”.

    5. This 5th and final instance that I have come across might be pushing certain limits however, I believe that it is another instance where Nolan very intelligently integrates Sammy’s story with Leaonard’s actual past. The clue to me comes in when Leonard is unable to remember to pull the door in (as the sign says) at the Discount Inn., rather than push it. After all Lenny has been staying at this hotel for well over a week, not only that but they have ripped him off and double charged him for an extra room. Now within this period of time (1 week, even more maybe) Lenny should have been able to condition himself through repetition, to remember to PULL THE DOOR, yet he doesn’t. I then begin to wonder could this be a further parallel in between his character and Sammy’s? It is in the same way that Sammy couldn’t condition himself at a primal level to avoid the electric shocks from the various objects. As Lenny himself stated in Sammy’s case that, that means the disability is psychological/primal/mental, and not physical.

    That is about the all the few little hints that have crossed my mind regarding the matter and I thought I would lay them out on the table for future reference. All the best.

    Memor1 Man

  160. Memory Man says:

    Dear Taylor Holmes,

    I sincerely hope that the information that I’ve posted could be of use to you, and any other viewers that stumble upon here. I would be highly interested and grateful if, once you’ve managed to find the time to look into the film perhaps once more (to see for yourself if all is correct that I have laid out), and the few things that I have listed in your blog; could you then please give me your new detailed outlook on how the films story turns out for you (if any of your original outlook has changed at all).

    There is no right and wrong answer here. I just feel that with your viewing and knowledge of the film, the entire entity of the film’s jig-saw puzzle could be assembled (slowly but surely). After all Nolan does state vividly that there is one definite right answer to this film, that it could be found upon analyzing the one character that gives us only the truth, this of course could only be unraveled by us as viewers through the gathering of only the facts! Perhaps it’s just me, but I’d like to believe him.

    There has to be only one right way to assemble all of the events that unfolded, or have been narrated to us is in the movie Memento. That way we could justify with fact, every single part of the story, rather than making assumptions on various segments (which in the end leave us even more baffled as to what actually happened).

    I hope that I may be able to hear from you sometime soon, or anyone else that could pitch something else in for us, regarding this great 21st Century masterpiece. I wish you all the best. Take care.

    Memor! Man

  161. taylor says:

    Chief,
    Calm down. heheh. Take a deep breath. You are spraying shrapnel at a prodigious rate. Let me put this blog post into perspective for you. This post and all the comments are something like 40k words. You alone have written 3k words – something like 8 pages – as you grapple with the movie. Yes? Moses. And this is just ONE crazy out of control blog that I have to try and keep up with! Have you seen my Prestige Explained blog? Or my Inception blogs? They get even more convoluted than this one… if that is even possible.

    But kudos to you for your tenacity. You got me to read every single word. Look at every single photo. And I even reread your stuff again after looking at the details just to make sure I get it all.

    So with that, I say TRIPE. heheh. I did say anyway. As I was reading the license plate details over and over again, I was like, I write my 1’s like that. They look like I’s. So what?! I don’t have any trouble with them. Maybe Leonard doesn’t either. And then the license plate changed. I mean you showed clearly the license plate as changing in the film. And that for me is a very very significant detail. Leonard is doing two different acts of sabotage to himself. The first one is willfully changing the evidence to use himself as a guided missile on some goal and trajectory that only he knows in that particular moment… and then never again. The second act of sabotage is that his mind is adopting the lies as facts… and over writing reality for his own purposes. The fact that Nolan went out of his way to change the license plate is brilliant. Jacked up – but brilliant.

    And it basically means we are all screwed. Mainly because we can’t know what is real anymore. Details in the movie have been show as true – we the omniscient viewer – are not omniscient anymore. We are just as hobbled as Leonard is. We can’t know what is true, and we can’t know what is false. It’s impossible now. Which makes the movie even better in my opinion. If you read my Prestige blog you will see that Nolan did something similar there with the diaries. He based the movie on the details in the diaries, which are in fact lies. Nolan loves utilizing untrustworthy narrators in all his works and then setting them as fact, when in fact they are clearly drivel. Brilliance.

    Memory Guy – you said that there is one interpretation of the movie and that Nolan had one idea that was right. I have never ever agreed with that theorem when it comes to Nolan. He just does not work that way. I actually think the man takes two truths, and balances them on a razor’s edge throughout the course of his entire movie creation journey. Its easier to see in The Prestige, but he does it everywhere. Here he uses Sammy and balances this detail on a knife’s edge. Either Sammy is a fiction, or he is a fact. Both could be true. Both could be false. One interpretation of Sammy is that he is a coping mechanism for Lenny after having killed his wife. Or another is that he really is real, and there is a real truth here that corresponds to Lenny’s own mental condition. Either could be true. Enough of that, I think I have made my point.

    As to your details about the tattoo techniques. I liked it, you just didn’t drive the point home to a larger insight. I love the thought that the caller is the cause of all the hand done tattoos. And the rest are probably manipulated by Lenny between the hotel and the parlor. That would tell us something. Like what?! Oh I don’t know, that ALL the tattoos are completely and totally unreliable maybe?! hahah. Some for one reason. And the rest for another reason.

    I think I originally posted this back in 2010? But I originally wrote it within a few months of the moving coming out. I don’t think this version of the blog mentions this anymore, but I posted it out on Epinions. So this is an old old post. I used to be the number one hit when you typed in “Memento Explained” but my hosting provider crashed my server for a week and with that went my rankings. Regardless… it has been a fun discussion out here. Tons of cool ideas and interesting insights. Some people just lob a grenade and go. But most people stick around and check in occasionally.

    There are a ton of people that get emailed every single time a post is made. And I can see them circling through and checking in. So there is this like alumni of participation that has sort of grown up over the past few years. Pretty awesome.

    Thanks for writing Memory Dude. And thanks for sticking with it and pulling me out of the shadows. hehehe.

  162. ns says:

    I think the most important clue about this movie is the brain injury. The specific scene where Lenny falls to the bathroom floor and starts bleeding simultaneously face to face with his wife who seemingly takes her last breath under a shower curtain. It seems to me there are two separate injuries and injury related complications going on. First, we have the allowed physical cessation of short-term memory in the brain, which the film exploits. Second, we have a damaged area that seemingly relates to what our minds understand as anger, purpose and control. It seems the second runs undiagnosed in the film. Watching his wife ‘die’ while suffering a brain injury apparently engulfed Lenny physically as well as psychologically.
    It is clear that Lenny was not Sammy. Sammy did exist, and was a fraud. However, the two identities have overlapped in Lenny’s mind, due to their similar situation and Lenny’s research on the subject; and Lenny thinks Sammy killed his wife, when it was in fact Lenny himself who killed his wife. This moment is metaphorically captured in the manufactured “I DID IT” tattoo scene at the end of the film. Lenny does not remember his wife was a diabetic because of this delusional, brain-injury-induced identity cloning.
    Teddy uses Lenny to kill people for money or drugs. Teddy grasped at straws to understand Lenny’s condition, just as Sammy’s ‘wife’ did, and sets Lenny on new missions to satisfy his anger, purpose, control addled brain. Teddy is a bad cop. When Lenny realizes this he sets himself upon killing Teddy and writing his license plate number down for future fact-tattoos.
    Lenny knows he is out of control and he purposefully makes the call to kill Teddy, signing his death-warrant in tattoo ink.
    Teddy is blackmailing Jimmy, Jimmy works for Dodd. Teddy seems to be tracking and involving “John G’s” who are up to no good, to fulfill his need for money and Lenny’s need for revenge. He is using Lenny as an idiot assassin.
    Natalie catches on to this and uses Lenny to throw suspicion onto Teddy, out of revenge for the death of Jimmy. However, it is actually Lenny who listens to Teddy’s big speech and purposefully sets himself up to kill Teddy. Perhaps highlighting the theme of repetition and conditioning, Lenny now has to kill.
    Lenny says something about not being able to heal because he doesn’t have time. It is key moments like this that show the brain injury has compounded and fractured his mind as well. Both physically and psychologically damaged he searches for meaning and truth endlessly. Rather poetic?
    Lenny is of course the “everyman” in his long quest through a life of frivolous encounters, unreliable memories and a rising, vast futility.
    A tale told by an idiot signifying nothing.

  163. theauthor says:

    This is Memento (Read Momento Mori first)

    Leonard is actually looking for John Gammell.
    John Gammell protectsdhimself by staying close to Leonard and pretending to be his friend.
    He tries to get ‘Lenny’ (another attempt to pretend to be his friend) to kill someone he declares is the real John G.
    This doesn’t work. But he can use Leonard to make money. (“I’m a snitch”)
    Leonard (ironically) gets mad at ‘Teddy’ and kills him by setting him up as the real John G.
    The irony is, this actually is the real John G. in his tattoo.
    The problem is that Leonard’s first tattoo could be a lie.
    He may have been mad at ‘Teddy’ for any reason and decided to hunt him.
    Teddy never acts like a real cop (with Dodd and when he considers taking Dead Jimmy’s shoes)
    There is a lot more.

  164. aaaaaaaa says:

    My Theory of Memento

    The reason why I believe that Teddy was telling the truth on how Leonard was Sammy Jankis all along came from one particular scene earlier in the movie. I believe many people might have simply over-looked this scene, but if you don’t believe me re-watch the first 30 minutes of the movie. I am talking about the scene where Leonard loses the key to his motel room and asks Burt for help. Burt takes him to his presumed room. When he opens the door, some of Leonard’s notes where scattered around. Then Burt closes door and tells Leonard that this was his old room and his new room is somewhere else. I picked up that Burt scratches his face area and avoids eye contact for a little bit. Those were signs of lying Leonard told us in his flashback when he was an insurance investigator. At first Leonard doesn’t trust him, but eventually shrugs it off after Burt explained he was checked into 2 rooms.

    Now to the study of Sammy Jankis. Leonard believed that he was there when doctors studied Sammy on how short term memory loss patients can’t pick up instincts. In Sammy’s case, they would have him pick up shaped objects, half of them being electrified. They kept on repeating it and Sammy would keep hurting himself by picking up the electrified objects due to his constant memory loss. He had lost his instincts.

    Now compare that to the scene with Leonard and Burt with the hotel room switch up; Leonard knew all about the telltale signs and expressions people make when lying, sort of like how Sammy knew how picking up something electrified would hurt him. Both of these beliefs were facts they knew clearly knew in their head even with short term memory loss and brain damage. Because Sammy lacked learning to condition his instinct by avoiding the objects, it makes me believe the same thing about Leonard, who I believe to be Sammy.

    To sum this up about the wrong motel room scene; Burt somehow lied to Leonard because of the reason thought to be Burt taking advantage and ripping Leonard due to his short term memory. He showed the tell-tale expressions people usually make while lying (scratching his face and avoiding eye-contact). Leonard says a couple of times the he likes to look people in the eye when they are talking to him, as he did with Burt in that scene. Leonard suspects something fishy about this but I perceived that was only because all his notes where in the room. As soon as Burt tells him that he has a new room along with the one he already has, Leonard seems to shake it off.

    And most importantly Leonard looks directly at Burt and says “At least you’re being completely honest about ripping me off” (Keep in mind he didn’t fade out of memory during this moment.) The fact of the scene was that Leonard described himself as an expert in identifying lies, but his instincts didn’t pick up on the lying Burt displayed through his nervous tics. Leonard lost his instincts just he told how Sammy did from the test. Sammy’s story is Leonard’s.
    Watch these clips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9lOnmnj0IY
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MUnDhxAif0&feature=related

  165. ModestMonk says:

    I know I’m a little behind, but I just watched the movie Memento and the ending got me thinking a lot. And when I think a lot I usually turn toward the internet to find the vast majority of solutions available and find the right answer. To my concern I feel that there isn’t one out there for this movie that fits what I saw of it. I might be missing something, but please fill me in if you have seen the movie several times and want to correct me on how it actually ends.

    The movie ends with what seems to be an open-ended question on who killed his wife, hinting that he in fact killed her. But I feel that the movie in it’s entirety holds the solution. Throughout the movie Leonard explains the story of Sammie Jenkins and how his illness is prone to conditional therapy.

    I don’t know any other way to explain it so I’ll just say my theory and explain it after. Leonard is the story of Sammy Jenkins, he got into a car accident, his wife couldn’t believe that he was faking it or couldn’t live with the fact that he wasn’t so she devised the test of insulin. There was no murder, there was no rape.

    Q:WHAT? How do you explain him knowing about the incident at his house, his last memory?

    That was all conditioned. By people like Teddy taking advantage of his condition. By seeing tattoos that his wife was murdered etc, every time he wakes up. By the reports he dismembered to cause him to want to catch someone. All these things conditioned him to believe that that is why his wife isn’t with him anymore. He can’t form new memories, but he can condition himself into thinking a certain way. He doesn’t even have to think about it when someone asks, he just knows in his memory that she was murdered. Slightly more conclusive proof of him being Sammy that Nolan adds (mentioned above) is when he is explaining the story of Sammy in the mental hospital, after the nurse passes by, it quickly changes to Leonard for a split second sitting in the chair instead of Sammy. Sort of like for a split second he remembered that he was actually Sammy.

    Q:But if that is true, why doesn’t he remember that his wife has Diabetes? That would have happened before the ‘car accident’ or ‘murder/rape’.

    That got me for a little bit. The reason he doesn’t remember it is because he’s trying to piece two puzzles pieces that belong to two different puzzles. The image in his mind of his wife is convoluted with conditioned images of her being raped/murdered. All things that never actually happened. That version never had diabetes. His actual wife did and that version of his memory is stored as Sammy Jenkins wife.

    So all this time, Teddy was the one assigned to the case that investigated the murder/suicide of his wife. The pieces left out were the pieces Leonard crossed out because he didn’t want to know the truth. He lies to himself to make himself feel better. What’s left in the report makes it appear that his wife was murdered. Teddy takes advantage of this and gets him to do things for him for personal reasons.

    That’s how I interpreted the ending. Did the rape/murder actually happen or was it a car accident? Is there any proof in the movie? Please fill me in where I might be wrong because no conclusion I’ve read is close to mine (other than he was Sammy but she lived after the rape) and I feel there is pretty good evidence to say that it was all conditioned into his mind.

  166. flavio says:

    i got it. sammy jenkins was the 2nd guy at the attack. sammy did that in revenge because lenny had unmasked him. so lenny tattoed ‘remember sammy jenkins’ to remember to kill him. teddy came up and messed it all.

  167. gnikee says:

    Wow there are a lot of comments here. Makes me appreciate this movie that much more.

    Apologies if someone has said this already but to me it is an integral detail of the story:
    Of all the tattoos he has, the most visible is ‘remember sammy jenkins’. It’s intentionally on the back of his hand so that he sees it constantly. You see him rubbing it to test to see if it was just drawn on, and it is always the first tattoo he notices. After he notices it, he is then shown investigating the rest of them. Why specifically put THAT tattoo on the back of your hand? It’s so that he can repeat the story of Sammy Jenkins to himself and anyone who’ll listen. Teddy said it best with “And it gets better every time you tell it”. Leonard is able to condition himself and his memories by repetition. By continually telling the story he is able to remove the awful fact that he himself killed his wife so that he can continue on in his vengeful life and ignore the fact that she survived the attack. Leonard also further solidifies this with his discussion with Teddy that memories are unreliable and can be altered. It also makes Leonard an unreliable source of what the truth/facts are.

    With that being said, here’s my take/interpretation on the ‘facts’ of the movie:

    Leonard’s name really is Leonard Shelby and he was married.
    Leonard was an insurance investigator and investigated Sammy Jenkins, who was single and a fraud.
    Leonard lost his ability to retain long term memories in the attack.
    Leonard’s wife did survive the attack.
    Leonard is then constantly on the hunt for John G even though his wife is still alive and this most likely drives her nuts.
    Leonard accidentally, or at her direction, kills his wife with insulin and then ends up in an institution. (See black and white scene in the institution where Sammy is shown to actually be Leonard for a split second. Hint, it’s when the orderly walks by)
    Leonard escapes from the institution, read the short story by Jonathan Nolan, and then somehow teams up with Teddy.
    Leonard and Teddy kill off the original John G and then Teddy uses Leonard to kill Jimmy.
    Natalie uses Leonard to get rid of Teddy, as revenge, and Dodd since Jimmy is no longer around.
    Teddy is telling the truth about Leonard’s past.
    In my opinion, Leonard essentially turns himself into a serial killer by the end of the movie. (And I think he enjoys this new life. Little details like him noticing that his knuckles hurt after Natalie tells him that Dodd beat her up but he intentionally dismisses it. And the not so subtle details like intentionally putting himself on the hunt to kill Teddy.)

    You can’t trust Leonard’s memories.
    The ‘I Did It’ scene seems problematic, but only if you believe that really happened. Is it plausible that his wife would stand by and watch her husband tattoo himself to that extent and then do a celebration cuddle with him after his murderous victory. Or is it more probable that the celebration cuddle is actually Leonard’s fantasy and that he manipulates his world to meet his agenda.

  168. Óscar Gómez says:

    Have anyone noticed that the name “Natalie” can also be read as “Nat-a-lie”? That might explain it.

  169. Jen says:

    Hey everyone great comments here!

    My thoughts of the movie are this the whole movie is about karma. Lenny’s wife was killed as karma for Lenny not allowing the insurance to go through and causing the death of Sammy’s wife.

    The reason Lenny has the tattoo of remember Sammy is so he thinks back to the case and then remembers that he has essentially done this to himself. This gives him the anger and motivation to try and avenge his wife’s murder.

    The scene where Lenny pinches his wife to me looks like a playful pinch. If it was an injection who says ”ouch’ you would say ‘that one really hurt’ because you would be expecting it!

    Okay so what about Teddy’s ‘revelation’ to Lenny about his wife? I think that Teddy makes this up to hurt Lenny and to throw his long term memories off balance. So many characters show impatience of repititon throughout the movie. Natalie mocks Lenny about his condition brutally, Sammy’s wife clearly gets angry at Sammy. But the way this really comes together for me is when we get a sense that Lenny is annoyed at his wife reading the same book over and over.

    This for me leads me onto why Teddy tells Lenny that Sammy didn’t have a wife and so on. I think Teddy is so angry here that he wants to really hurt Lenny and he knows that this will. Come on it makes Lenny question everything, he hits him where it hurts.

    In turn, Lenny shows him that he is not to be messed with which is why he makes Teddy his John G. Lenny at this point is tired of getting trodden down. Remember when Natalie mocks him he cannot find a pen, we don’t know what he would have wrote down if he could, I believe he would have made a note to either kill her or hurt her.

    The scene where Sammy changes to Lenny in the mental home I believe this is just showing us Lenny’s conscience he thinks a) he did this to Sammy and b) he should be with him in there.

    When Lenny kills Jimmy he says Sammy I think that Jimmy knows Lenny’s back story (maybe from Teddy) and knows he is going to die. By saying Sammy it is a quick way to piss Lenny off before he dies getting the last word. He’s reminded Lenny that Sammy will never go away that he is the reason this happened to him and that his wife is dead.

    The scene of Lenny and his wide in bed is Lenny’s imagination. It’s the two things that he wants more than anything – to kill his wife’s attacker and to be reunited with his wife.

    I believe that Lenny is trying to kill his wife’s attacker and the facts he has in tattoos and photographs are his daily findings. That’s why he cannot talk on the phone because it goes against his code he cannot take a picture and doesn’t know who he’s talking to. He cannot trust anyone.

    Teddy is corrupt and is using Lenny for his personal gain and so is Natalie. They are both ignorant to his condition and therefore have no sumapthy for him – the same way that Lenny had no sympathy for Sammy – if he did he would have helped him with the insurance etc. Karma.

    This is the fort time I have watched the movie so I will watch again soon! Let me know your thoughts! And sorry if I rambled on!!

  170. brad says:

    Here’s my take on the story:
    Leonard was not really unable to make new memories – it was all psychological. All the pieces about Sammy being investigated and found to have a psychological rather than physical issue really happened to Leonard, not Sammy. (Remember when Leonard doesn’t know to push the door open at the motel – this is the proof that he can’t form new memories by repetition). When the clerk takes him to his room he says “thanks for being honest about how you’re ripping me off Burt” or something to that effect. Burt has not told him his name in the last 15 minutes, so he shouldn’t have remembered his name. Likewise, he shouldn’t have remembered telling Teddy not to call him Lenny (“You know I’ve told you I don’t like to be called that”). And he shouldn’t remember that Natalie has also lost someone, which he writes on the photo after looking at the picture of her with Jimmy. Leonard thinks he can’t form new memories but he can – his amnesia is just his way of dealing with his wife’s attack and death (which he caused by giving her the insulin injections). Before killing her he was led to believe by Teddy that he had found the rapist and killed him, then had her write the line about having killed him on his chest each day so that he would know what he did. Once she died the ink washed away, and he started using tattoos as a permanent solution to keeping notes (hence why it is no longer on his chest for the rest of the movie).

  171. Edward Hamilton says:

    Okay, what explains everything is at the end of the movie, and then the “I Did it” scene. The I did it scene occurs at the point in the movie shortly after you discover that Lenny agrees in his mind to lie to himself with a note about Teddy being the killer (which he makes a note to not trust, and a note to tattoo his liscence number on his arm). He did this to make sure he doesn’t kill anyone else but the one who made him kill Jimmy which he feels terrible about and also feels terrible about being manipulated.

    The second time he agrees to lie to himself (and a time in which he shows a smile that is extremely rare), he closes his eyes which could not be a memory because he didn’t not have the “i did it” tatoo yet. And its at this point that he ponders that its good to lie to himself in order to feel better. After deliberatly placing the image of his wife actually being alive, he says “yes I can”. Meaning I can lie to myself to feel better by picturing his wife as alive.

    Therefore, his wife is dead and he knows he really did kill the killer. But last in the order of business is to take care of the character that is manipulating him whom Lenny knows will continue to manipulate him. And I think he knows he must kill in order to feel better and possibly get his amnesia reversed.

  172. Michael Butler says:

    Lot of good stuff here. I’m late to this conversation but recently re-watched Memento and so went looking for theories on what “actually happened”.
    I think Leonard suffered more damage to his brain and his memory than is stated in the movie and that he basically assumed the identity of Sammy Jankis, who was the real insurance investigator, probably by reading Sammy’s report or testimony on Leonard’s claim and his life after the injury. This is the purpose of the tattoo “remember Sammy Jankis” – it’s part of Leonard’s process for internalizing Sammy’s story as his own. How specifically he was able to do this with anterograde memory loss is a bit of a puzzle but the insurance investigator’s statements indicate that it should be possible for a person to form certain kinds of memory in a different part of the brain by repetition. So possibly by telling and re-telling the Sammy Jankis story from his copy of whatever report he had (a story which Teddy says evolved over time), Leonard was able to commit it to memory, albeit drastically distorted, and as his own first-person narrative, rather than Sammy’s.
    So if Leonard wasn’t an insurance investigator, who was he? I think he’s a former police detective. That’s how he got a copy of the police report from the attack. That’s why he has the evidence board/map on his motel room wall, carries his camera like it’s a shoulder holster, flashes Dodd’s picture like it’s a badge, knows how to jimmy-open Dodd’s motel room door (not to mention the peep hole trick) and is able to fight his way out of the bathroom completely naked. Leonard no longer remembers his past (he’s replaced it with Sammy’s story) but he does these things instinctively – which is less like a former insurance investigator and more like a former cop.
    And how does Leonard link up with Teddy? I think Teddy actually is the 2nd attacker Leonard has been looking for and every time he gets close to identifying his John G., Teddy manages to misdirect him and put Leonard on the scent of someone else, usually by manipulating him over the phone.
    The delicious irony of this theory is that Leonard does finally get the real John G., even though he ends up manipulating his own memory to do it.

  173. Erniesam says:

    Wow, the holy grail of memento theories right here.

    I have seen the movie many times and last weekend I saw it again. For some reason it realy stuck with me and I have wrestled with it the last two days. Many comments on here have some very good inside and many of them have helped me. Funny how you need others to clear your own “blind spots.”

    I have no theory. I’m just trying to grasp the whole idea of the movie. The storyline itself is fairly simple, but it is those pesky details that causes you to think more deeply about it. It seems like there is a whole backstory to the plot that is hard to get your head around. I’d like to ask questions, rather than pose a theory. I think it is more helpful to come to an understanding of something when you take little, decisive steps.

    My biggest obstacle to “get” the movie seems to be the lack of any trustworthy source. We see the movie through Lenny’s eyes and get the info he gets. We know that Teddy is using him and Natalie too, although she helps him too. But here I go with assertions already, instead of just asking questions.

    So here’s a point I find rather confusing: we know through Lenny’s own words that he lost his short term memory after “the incident.” This is the last thing he remembers. The problem is: why should we believe him? We know the “incident” took place, because Lenny has the police report. We DON”T know if it is true that Lenny actually lost his short term memory at that moment, because we never see any evidence of that. We only know that this is the last thing Lenny SAYS he remembers. We don’t even know if his condition is physical or psychological; a theme which is very important in the Sammy Jenkins story.

    Now my second point: many believe that the story of Sammy is in fact the story of Lenny (look at the similarities in names) and I can certainly understand why. Still, there seems to be a problem. If indeed Lenny killed his own wife by accidentally giving her an overdosis of insuline due to his condition, how can he remember this? And why should he suppress this by the story of Sammy? The problem with ANY scenario is, that Lenny MUST be aware of the death of his wife in order for the need to suppress this memory. Furthermore it seems that insuline is an important part of the story. Does this mean Lenny’s wife actually did die by an overdosis or just that she’s dead?

    The point I’m trying to make here, before I start rambling on is that we CANNOT trust Lenny on his words. He says he can remember ceverything up to the incident perfectly? Why this confidence in his memory? Is he trying to convince himself that this is the truth? The fact that this is the last memory he has does NOT mean that the loss of short term memory started at that moment or even that that blow on the head was the cause!

  174. Michael Butler says:

    Finding a trustworthy source: Yes, in my opinion, this is the most compelling aspect of the storytelling. As viewers, we receive the story from Lenny’s point-of-view, so we inherit Lenny’s assumed knowledge (e.g. his name, his profession, and his memory of the attack, his wife, and Sammy Jankis) until those assumptions and memories are called in to question, particularly at the end of the movie.
    Although we’re wise to go back and question what Lenny says and knows (or thinks he knows), Lenny’s inability (or severely impaired ability) to form new memories is displayed frequently throughout the story. Most dramatically, when Natalie manipulates Lenny in to striking her and minutes later uses the injury to convince Lenny to go find Dodd. This event and the many other instances of Lenny failing to recognize people he’s met, plus his evidence board of polaroids present a pretty strong case that Lenny either has a severe disability or is pretending to have one. But if he’s pretending, what does he have to gain from that, and why would he pretend even when he’s alone?
    The secondary question – whether Lenny’s condition is physical or psychological – is interesting but I don’t think the answer is critical to understanding the story. Whatever the cause, Lenny has a problem forming new memories and, as stated, we have a lot of evidence demonstrating that.
    But if we’re to believe that Lenny did unintentionally kill his wife with insulin, the fact that he “remembers” this as Sammy Jankis’s story indicates that Lenny is somehow able to create new (though distorted) memories, just not through the automatic brain functioning that enable the rest of us to remember new people and other information Lenny doesn’t seem able to retain.
    This new way of creating memory is what I think the “remember Sammy Jankis” tattoo and flashbacks are about. I think Lenny learned (and eventually modified) the flashback story from the written insurance or police report of his own case. If it happened, this learning had to have occurred after the attack and his wife’s eventual death. Lenny “remembers” the aftermath of the attack not by recalling events from the location in his brain where his actual experience is stored (and where his injury prevents him from adding new information) but by using repetition to insert the written account of the events into a different part of the brain that he does have access to.
    And, if you recall, this way of learning by repetition is exactly what the “remember Sammy Jankis” flashbacks suggest was possible in order to pass the shock tests. I think Lenny learned this alternate way of retaining information from reading the insurance/police report and subsequently committed this report to memory through repetition, which is triggered whenever he sees the Sammy Jankis tattoo. I theorize that “remember Sammy Jankis” started as a note Lenny wrote on his hand that he eventually tattooed – the first of the many tattoos he was to acquire.

  175. Erniesam says:

    Hey, this thread is still alive! Hurah!

    Nice thinking, Michael. I like your reasoning and argumentative style. You’ve touched upon some real interesting issues. Let me try to run your comment down and get my perspective on it.

    You say it doesn’t realy matter for the story if Lenny’s condition is physical or psychological. Well, I don’t know. I’m not convinced that when it’s psychological, he’s therefor faking. Although I’m certainly no expert in this field, but it seems to me that when it’s psychological, he still doesn’t know it. I mean, wouldn’t that be like someone who’s mentally ill and isn’t aware of it himself? Of course Lenny knows he has this condition and doesn’t seem to be able to do anything about it, but couldn’t it be that when it’s psychological this could have been created by his willingness to suppress the trauma? I mean, that through conditioning he has made himself belief it is physical because it’s convenient for him?

    I’m just thinking out loud here, mind you. I don’t consider this option to be true, but it sticks with me. Because when it’s psychologically, could he than make new memories and choose to keep them or not? He certainly would not be aware of it, otherwise he wouldn’t keep his condition when he’s alone. But this way he could store some new memories maybe. Still, it’s a wild guess.

    “Most dramatically, when Natalie manipulates Lenny in to striking her and minutes later uses the injury to convince Lenny to go find Dodd. ”

    This is something that puzzles me also. We see Natalie testing and fooling Lenny twice: once in the bar and once at her house. Now, how does she know how long it takes for Lenny to start a new memory? Moreover, how does she know when this memory has started. When she gives Lenny the beer in the bar she does not know when Lenny started this current memory. Of course we do not know exactly how long it took from the point of her spitting in the cup and giving it to Lenny, thanks to the manipulation of montage. I assume we are to believe it took as long as it is depicted in the film. She takes a chance here, does she not?

    “But if we’re to believe that Lenny did unintentionally kill his wife with insulin, the fact that he “remembers” this as Sammy Jankis’s story indicates that Lenny is somehow able to create new (though distorted) memories, just not through the automatic brain functioning that enable the rest of us to remember new people and other information Lenny doesn’t seem able to retain.”

    I get your drift here. Lenny could “remember” certain things (indeed though distorted) through other means like conditioning and repetition. And so he distorts the truth by the story of Jenkins. The question remains than if this distortion is deliberate or simply due to his condition.

    The main problem with this seems to me that Lenny doesn’t remember this in the first place. Why would he want to remember this? Is the regaining of the memory of this deliberate or is it simply, as you state, the consequence of Lenny reading his police file over and over? If this is indeed the story of Lenny, that is the story in the police file, where does Sammy fit in? Teddy tells Lenny that Sammy did exist, that he didn’t have a wife and that he faked it. Of course Teddy isn’t reliable either, but let’s assume this is right. Isn’t it very coincidental that Lenny should get the same very rare condition as someone in a case he closely studied? But…if Sammy did not exist, where does Lenny get his image from? If Sammy did not exist, could it be that he was the insurance agent who investigated Lenny’s condition?

    This is all speculation and mind ramblling, mind you. Just putting it out there. Throwing something on the stoop and see if the cat licks it up.

    “This new way of creating memory is what I think the “remember Sammy Jankis” tattoo and flashbacks are about. I think Lenny learned (and eventually modified) the flashback story from the written insurance or police report of his own case.”

    I agree with you that the tests of Sammy and he just not getting it are very important. It may be that it was Lenny who did those tests and he did learn through repetition. Why then imagines Lenny that Sammy couldn’t? Because this is reality? Or because Lenny wanted him not to learn, so that he could not be held responsible for his wife’s death? Is this then a suppression of his own guilt?

    Michael, you suggest that Lenny got this Sammy story from the police file, whereby he switched himself with Sammy. Lenny states however, that he has difficulty to memorize the file (well, there’s an open door!) and that he has to divide it in sections. Maybe Lenny learned this story through repeatedly reading his file, but why would he want to remember the actual death of his wife? Wouldn’t he just have crossed it out (like so many sections in the file have been) and just focus on the incident (the raping of his wife) to create this goal in his life? Why remember the death of his wife at all?

    You say this Sammy story is triggered through the tattoo on his hand. In this light the story of Sammy MUST have been created through repetition, because this way the only way to recollect it is to remember himself by it: over and over again. When Sammy is real, the tattoo would have another function: he reminds himself to think of Sammy, so he than becomes aware he has the same condition. Either way, this tattoo is of vital importance to Lenny, because it is on the most obvious spot on his body.

    Well, these are just some thoughts I got from reading your comment, Michael. I don’t pin myself to a theory because, as I explained before, I’d like to have all the facts in first. Or maybe it’s because I don’t want to make an ass of myself. I just don’t know at this point.

    The Sammy Jenkins story is the little bugger in the picture. Is it what happened to Lenny self or a mix of fantasy and reality? How is it that Teddy knows details about Sammy, that Lenny doesn’t know (or remember?) Is what Teddy says true? Has he got something to gain by it when he lies about it?

    One thing I’m fairly sure about as I’m sure many others are too: the wife of Jenkins is in fact Lenny’s wife. They look very much alike, only Sammy wife is older (to match the age of Sammy, which to my mind must indicate that Sammy is indeed real). Well, I’d like to chat about this more, so anybody else an idea about Sammy being fiction or real? And how Lenny can remember (through repetition or otherwise) his wife dying by an overdodis of insuline?

  176. Erniesam says:

    I have so many questions regarding this movie, like so many other people, I don’t know where to begin. In order to make it easier to read, I will chop this comment into different sections. It isn’t by a thoughtful dividing proces, but just how it comes to me.

    1. Truthfullness of Teddy’s claims about Sammy
    2. Consequences for the Sammy Jenkins story
    3. Resetting the watch
    4. Changing clothes (I don’t have an “answer” to this one, but just a quick response)
    5. Does this story repeats itself over and over?

    1.
    I won’t go into detail about the trustworthiness of Teddy as a whole. I just want to explore his statements about Sammy. The first obvious question that comes to mind is: HOW does Teddy know these things about Sammy? Let’s take it for granted that he WAS a policeman, even the police officer that was assigned to Lenny’s case. We get to “know” this from Teddy himself, so we cannot be sure about this. Let’s assume he was indeed this officer.

    For Teddy to know these things about Sammy, his case must have been in the police file. It may even have been Teddy himself who tracked this Sammy down, because he heard from Lenny that this Sammy had the same condition he has. But how does Lenny know he has this condition in the first place? So maybeTeddy learned this from the doctors in the hospital where Lenny was treated. But how did the doctors know about Sammy? Perhaps Teddy learned this from the insurance company where Lenny worked? This last one seems to me the most probable.

    Now Teddy says that Sammy was a conman, a faker. He goes against the beliefs of Lenny. So, if this is a lie, what does Teddy has to gain by it? Lenny beliefs Sammy’s condition was psychological and he never said that Sammy faked it. We must remember that Lenny himself “benefits” from this belief, because this way he makes Sammy not quilty of murder, but simply responsible for an accident. Furthermore, this responsibillity is even more repressed by Lenny when he thinks Sammy’s wife asked her husband to do what he did. Now, I don’t know if this is the reason Lenny fabricates this story. It could be that his wife committed suicide and Lenny (in reality) feels that he is responsible. At this point, I simply don’t know. But the fact remains that Lenny definately benefits from this story, otherwise he would not have had it in his mind (like Teddy says: “You make up your own truth).

    Why should Teddy lie about Sammy not having a wife? When Lenny beliefs Sammy did NOT have a wife he cannot substitute his own story with that of Sammy. The fact is, Lenny NEEDS to have Sammy to have a wife, otherwise this story is meaningless to him. We must remember that Teddy only has use for Lenny as long as Lenny wants to take revenge. The story of Jenkins is of vital importance to keep this vengeance alive, for if not for this story, Lenny would have been confronted with what realy happened. This of course is open to debate and I will not go into this deeper. The main point is, that the story of Sammy Jenkins does not hurt Teddy. Why then should he lie about things concerning Sammy if in fact these things CAN hurt HIM?

    I believe that Teddy is telling the truth concerning Sammy, because he has got nothing to gain by it. The way he tells it to Lenny is rather reveiling: it looks like Teddy is fed up with this whole story and Lenny’s distorting the truth. It’s like Teddy finally “snaps” and spill the beans, as it where. The interesting thing about it is of course, that normally Teddy would not have to be so cautious with what he tells Lenny, because he will forget it anyway. The only thing Teddy is usually concerned about is how to get Lenny to do what he wants. Teddy would not be afraid of Lenny catching him in a lie, because he would forget it anyway.

    So the question is: is this the first time Lenny has doubts about the identity of the one he has killed? I guess this is the first time his victim has uttered “Sammy.” Would Lenny be in contact with his wife’s killer or does he think this is impossible? It could be true of course. But Lenny does not believe he talked about Sammy with this killer. He could have talked about Sammy with him, without his knowing he being the killer. I guess Lenny trusts his instincts more than his reasoning. Lenny kills Teddy all because of the whispering of: “Sammy.”

    2.
    If what Teddy tells about Sammy is true, than this has major consequences for the Jenkins story. Let me start with the claim that he was a faker followed by him not having a wife.

    A. If Sammy is real, than Lenny, according to his own words, must be able to remember him perfectly. But he doesn’t. He thinks that his condition was psychological and that he never said Sammy faked it. If this is not true, what has Lenny to gain by thinking it? If Lenny thinks Sammy indeed faked it than Sammy would not be able to kill his wife. In order for Lenny to make this Jenkins story, his fantasy, to work is to have Sammy’s condition physical. Yet, Lenny states that he labelled his condition as psychological for money and promotion. Lenny repeatedly says that he never said Sammy was faking. Why? In order to make his story work, Lenny must convince himself that Sammy’s condition was indeed physical, but how can he distort the fact that his company in reality did NOT turn out the insurance money? This is Lenny’s dilemma and where reality and fantasy conflicts with each other. It’s more important to Lenny that Sammy’s condition is physical than to have the insurance company NOT turn out the money. I guess that’s why Lenny keeps repeating to himself that he never said that Sammy’s condition was physical, because this is the vital crux, the one thing that challenges his fantasy. The thing that cannot be reconciled or fixed. So why doesn’t Lenny belief the company DID pay? If he can fabricate so much stuff, why not that vital point? My answer would be that otherwise Sammy’s wife would not be that desperate (because of all the medical bills). Still, she doesn’t commit “suicide” because of the bills, but because she thinks Sammy is faking. So, I do not have a clear answer to why Lenny does not distort reality into his company paying.

    B. If Sammy did not have a wife, than that causes distinct problems for his story. With his condition Sammy would have needed care 24 hours a day. So, he could not have been living alone (unless a family member or a friend took care of him, but that to me seems highly unlikely). How could Lenny have visited Sammy at his home? Sammy would have been at a hospital or a psychiatric ward. He probably was alone in the car accident. If Sammy did not have a wife he certainly could not have lived alone, even with help, because of the medical bills. Who would pay them? And the mortgage on the house and everything else?

    3.
    There are some who indicate that the fact that Sammy’s wife turns her watch back 15 minutes instead of two, this story MUST be that of Lenny. I agree there’s something going on here. I’d like to explore this a bit. First of all, WHY does Sammy’s wife turn her watch back at all? Apparently she gets her insuline shot at 15.00h. Is this something Sammy would know? He probably remembers everything before the car accident, just like Lenny and his incident, so he would remember the 15:00h shot of his wife. Why then do we not see Sammy checking the clock or her watch? We only see him react to her calling, so why the need for the setting back of the watch?

    She sets her watch back 15 minutes, just like the average short term memory span of Lenny. We must remember that this is Lenny’s fantasy, he is the one who got this in his head. So the question is of course: how does Lenny know how long his short term memory span is? He can’t get this info by himself, Even if he should be aware of his condition (as indeed he is), he could never time it. He doesn’t know when he’s going to “awake” so he can’t prepare himself for it. Above all, by the time he figured out he HAS this condition everytime he “awakes” he can never be sure of the time that already has elapsed. I guess the only way Lenny can know his short term memory span is when he has written this down or has a tattoo of it somewhere on his body.

    Let’s assume Lenny DOES know his memory span. How than can he incorporate this into his fantasy? Through conditioning? By reading it over and over? Above all: WHY should Lenny want to incorporate this in the first place? My guess is Lenny doesn’t want to remind himself that the story of Jenkins is realy HIS story. I can understand that Lenny can “remember” something through conditioning, but not that he would take the trouble to “remember” something that he does not want to remember. The only option left must be, that Lenny cannot help to incorporate this into his fantasy. That would mean that Lenny unwillingly remembers his short term memory span but how? The only way Lenny can “remember” anything is through conditioning and repetiveness. We know Lenny tells this story over and over again. So through conditioning he gets this story into his head. That still doesn’t explain WHY Lenny would incorporate his own memory span.

    4. Like I said I have no clue why Lenny takes the clothes of Jimmy. I don’t see any reasons for it for Lenny. It is of course obvious why the writers of the story wanted Lenny to do it: without the changing of the clothes, this story could not have taken place. Lenny would not have been able to meet Natalie.

    5. Does this story repeat itself? We know that Lenny has killed before. I must admit I have to check to see how many times, but he did kill at least twice (when that picture was taken and Jimmy Grants). I believe there were more, but for the point I’m about to make the amount of times isn’t realy important. I believe Lenny will NOT kill again after he killed Teddy. At least not in the manner he has done so far.

    The point of course is this: without Teddy Lenny is helpless. Teddy was the one who gave him money. How can Lenny get money without a job? Perhaps he will start robbing places, but the chance of getting got is realy great when you can’t remember you have to hide. Will Teddy find another person who will support him? Likely not, because Teddy knew all about Lenny, including his background and how to cope with his condition (well, up to the point where Lenny kills him of course). It could be that criminals will hook up with Lenny, but that would be very unlikely also. Lenny is considered a freak and I bet he is highly unreliable when it comes to planning a robbery and certainly for keeping his word! Would a criminal be so smart to get to know all about Lenny. I doubt it very much. Above all: Lenny is not a criminal, he’s just seeking fore revenge. How will Lenny get in contact with criminals without Teddy?

    We don’t know what Lenny does after he killed Teddy. We can assume he will burn the polaroid of him. Does he also burn the licence plate form? If not, he will keep on looking for this John Gammel who is already dead. Furthermore, he still has the licence plate number tattoo. This means that he always will be looking for this number. But as some smart commentator on this thread has noticed: he wrote the licence plate number wrong. So, could it be that he will be looking for this licence plate number that is NOT that of the car of Teddy? This would explain the length to which Nolan has focussed on this license plate. Because Lenny wrote the wrong number down, he still has a lead to the next “killer” or better victim. Still, I have some difficulty with Lenny’s perception of the license plate. I can understand he wrote the wrong number down, but when he checks this number on the licence plate form of Teddy he AGAIN mistakes it. Well, I guess Lenny WANTS it to be true. The main question is of course: if Lenny wrote down the wrong number, how come Natalie could come up with the car of Teddy? Could it be that the number Lenny wrote down (a “1” instead of an “I”) does not exist and the computer came up with the closest to it? So, I guess I have to examine this licence plate bit more closely to come up with a sensical answer to this one. At this point I’m just not sure.

    The only person Lenny can go to after he killed Teddy is Natalie, unless he has more polaroids of people we haven’t seen. What would Natalie think when Lenny tells her he is (still) looking for the killer of his wife? Above all, is Natalie willing to take care / advantage of him?

  177. Erniesam says:

    Yep, here I go again. Some other points I’d like to discuss and which have bothered me somewhat. Yet again I want to stress that I do not have an explanation or complete theory, I’m just using questions as building blocks to see if I or we (on this thread) can come up with some logical construction. I’d like to discuss the following:

    1. The police report and the second attacker John G.
    2. The Sammy Jenkins story as suppression or confusion?
    3. The resetting of the watch continued
    4. The flasback of the injection, the whispering of “Sammy” and the “I did it” tattoo (all briefly explored)

    1.
    Lenny says he has a police report of the attack. Teddy tells him that he is the one that gave it to him. Again, why should Teddy lie about this? I can see no reason for it, so I assume he is speaking the truth. Than Teddy says that it was Lenny who tore out the 12 pages. Now this is something that is realy doubtful, because Teddy definately would benefit from these pages missing when they contained the info of Lenny’s wife not being dead. So Teddy could certainly have ripped those pages out himself, but Lenny could have done so also. BOTH benefit from it. What I find troubling is, that Teddy doesn’t mention the blacking out of many parts of the report. We can clearly see for ourselves that many parts in the report are crossed out. Why does Lenny nor Teddy mentions this? Was it Teddy or Lenny who did this. Again I might suspect that BOTH could have reasons for it: Lenny for not being reminded by the facts that his wife didn’t die at the attack and that there possibly was not a second attacker. Teddy wouldn’t want Lenny to have acces to that info, because he can only use Lenny when he wants to get revenge.

    Because of the evidence the police did not believe Lenny that there was a second attacker. This is very telling of course. The problem with the story of Lenny is, that it is highly improbable. If it realy happened the way Lenny describes it, the police would have assumed there had to be a second attacker, because how can Lenny shoot the attacker and at the same time get such a severe blow against the head? Because he slipped? Or the attacker hit him first and Lenny was still able to shoot him?

    So, my question is: why should we believe that Lenny got this severe headwond during the attack in the first place? We never see any evidence of it. We don’t even see any scars on his head. The point is that we only hear from Lenny himself what happened and how. I think it’s very telling that the police did not believe him (according to Lenny due to his condition, so another thing he can comfortably blame on his condition), because the second attacker is just the reason for his vengeance. The second attacker COULD be there but it can also be that Lenny himself distorted his memory to make it fit in with his needs.

    Lenny is convinced this second attacker is called John G. Now, if the police did NOT think there was a second attacker, where did he get this name from? The obvious suspicion would fall on Teddy, himself a John G., who was the investigative officer on the case. Teddy says he believed Lenny, but this can obviously be just a lie. How did Teddy know there was a second attacker and above all, that his name was John G.? It seems to me that Teddy got acqainted with Lenny during this case and after he found out Lenny had this condition he thought he could make use of him. Why would Teddy use the name John G.? Couldn’t he think of something else at the moment? Or did he choose it so that he would not forget it so easily? Teddy obviously could get hold of the police report so he must have some connection with the police. He also knows about Sammy, which to me seem to indicate that he must have been investigating the case: why would the story of Sammy be in the police report?

    Lenny has the police report concerning the attack. If Teddy tells the truth about his wife not dying during the attack, shouldn’t Lenny have another police report concerning her death? This would obviously be detrimental to Teddy, because he does not want Lenny to know about this (exept when he “spills the beans” after the murder of Jimmy).

    2.
    If the Sammy Jenkins story is about suppression of the fact that Lenny killed his wife (either accidental killing or suicide), than this must mean that Lenny did not have the condition yet. If he DID have the condition, there would be no need to suppress it, he wouldn’t remember it anyway. That way the Sammy Jenkis story would not be needed. So we must come to the conclusion that Lenny certainly does remember the real circumstances of the death of his wife, but that he willingly supresses it. Still, he doesn’t do a very good job when he cannot wipe out the whole insuline incident. Although I do have my thoughts on that also.

    The question than is: where does Sammy come in? When we assume that Lenny got this condition AFTER the death of his wife, we could assume he uses Sammy to suppress his own guilt. It is also possible that Lenny identifies himself so strongly when he has this condition that through obsession and repeating the story he mixes the real story of Sammy with that of his own. This would not be a conscious suppression of his guilt, but simply a result of strong identification. Of course this identification could have started consiously in order to suppress it. Maybe Lenny doesn’t want to remember Sammy in order to remind him of his similar condition, but simply because he intends to confuse himself with Sammy literally so he can suppress his guilt. Why would Lenny want to tell everyone about Sammy (and his story changes everytime he tells it)? My guess is that through this repetition the roots of this story get more firmly planted in his mind and he gets to belief it’s real.

    It is obvious that Lenny clearly confuses the story of himself with that of Sammy (consiously or not). Some things in the story seem to me best forgotten like Sammy killing his wife or indeed the insuline, but Lenny doesn’t seem to be able too. Instead he mixes things of his own life (having a wife with diabetes) with that of Sammy (his tests and his two minute memory span as well as his image of course). Lenny isn’t able to completely forget the death of his wife and above all: his guilt, because we see Sammy accidentally killing his wife, just like Lenny in real life.

    Now this to me seems to be the crux: Lenny mentions that the cause of Sammy’s condition was a car accident, yet we never see or hear any proof of that. Could it be that this too is something of his own life mixed with that of Sammy’s? Could it be than that Lenny killed his wife accidentally in the mentioned car crash?

    This to me sounds very convincing. First of all it would explain why Lenny has not been prosecuted, which he would have been if he had accidentally killed his wife with an overdosis insuline. It would also explain the beginning of his condition, because he could have gotten a head injury from it which started the condition (for which the seeds possibly could have been planted during the attack). This could also explain the insuline, which was always a puzzle to me. Let me see if I can get this straight:

    I always has trouble interpreting the way Teddy says very cynically: “The INsuline.” I could not figure out why he said it in that way. To me it seemed to suggest that the insuline wasn’t the cause of death. When it was a car accident wherin Lenny’s wife died, he would have been responsible but not guilty (in the eyes of the law). But Lenny felt guilty and wanted to suppress it (perhaps unconsiously). So where does the insuline come in? This would seem to suggest that his wife was INDEED diabetic (and the fact that Lenny is able to see himself giving the injection, something he couldn’t possibly have learned during his condition). The insuline was a portion of his own life mixed with that of Sammy’s. In order to make this story stick Lenny forced himself to forget that his wife had diabetis herself. If he remembered this, that would mean that a brick had been removed from his wall of suppression. When Teddy tells him the truth about his wife being a diabetic, Lenny gets an image of him inserting the injection. A second later he sees that it wasn’t an injection, but just a pinch. To me this seems to suggest that the words of Teddy had triggered his memory that projects an image of reality, to which Lenny quickly respons in repressing mode and sees the fake image again. The truthful words of Teddy can’t breach the wall of Lenny. I believe that because of this flash image of the truth, of which Lenny must be aware, he decides to kill Teddy. It isn’t because Lenny needs another John G., because like Teddy says: “There are plenty of John G”s for us to find.” I don’t think it is because Lenny learns Teddy is using him, because he ust have been aware of that before. Above all, he would forget it anyway. Lenny specifically says: “Can I make you forget what you just told me?” So it must be about what Teddy TOLD him, and not what he DID. What Teddy told was the TRUTH. And this is something that Lenny does not want. “Do I lie to myself to be happy? In your case, Teddy, yes I will.” Why should this be in the case of Teddy? Lenny at that moment KNOWS he’s lying to himself, thanks to the image flash of him injecting the insuline. Lenny knows Teddy is telling the truth and realizes that Teddy could be a danger to his suppression of the truth. That’s why he decides to kill him.

    I know I was planning to talk about the watch (which still is a mystery to me), but I will skip that for now. Also the flashback I have described just now. What is left is the whisper of “Sammy” and the “I did it” tattoo.

    3.
    This whispering of “Sammy” by Jimmy as Lenny is dragging him down the stairs is indeed peculiar. I understand the need for the writers to do this, because they needed something to make Lenny doubt this is the right guy in order to get the following conversation. The fact is: we don’t know if Jimmy means the Sammy of Lenny or not. To me it seems very unlikely to mention something like that when you’re dying. Could it be that Sammy was an important person in Jimmy’s life, maybe his son? And if it is indeed another Sammy this would be very coincidental. It could be that Jimmy thinks that Lenny is Sammy. He could have heard from Teddy this story of Sammy and maybe Teddy didn’t even mentioned Lenny’s name. Jimmy does refer to Lenny as “that memory guy” indicating he does not know his real name. In this way we get another blurring of Lenny and Sammy, just like Lenny himself does all the time in his fantasy. This I find a nice touch by Nolan.

    What about the “I did it” tattoo? This seems to be a dreamsegment of Lenny himself. Problem is: Lenny knows believes he did not kill the real John G. so this image could not have been related to Jimmy Grants. On the other hand, Lenny knows that he is about to kill Teddy (“his John G”). At this moment he also knows he has killed other people or has this impression through the words of Teddy. So at this moment Lenny KNOWS that he is about to kill the wrong man and that he has killed another wrong man. This image can mean no other than that Lenny cherishes this image, but clearly lies to himself. This is the image that keeps him going, while at the moment of seeing it he KNOWS he is lying to himself. This image will potentially never change and never be real, because Lenny himself will not allow it. He needs the vengeance as a substitute for his grief. He says someone with his condition needs a reason to live and that is a lie too: it is he himself who needs a purpose, so he can cope with his grief.

    The “I did it” tattoo is realy masterful. Lenny could have had other phrases ingraved like: “Check,” “Done” or “Mission accomplished.” Well, these just popped into my head, don’t laugh, please. It is the director who is being very clever here: Lenny reads this as just an aswer to his “Find him and kill him” while the audience gets a clue that in fact it is Lenny himself who is guilty.

    When Teddy says “You’re not a killer” the audience just got a clue to the real back story.

  178. Erniesam says:

    Gee, I had hoped people would have responded to my posts by now. That’s a pity, because I think multiple minds are better than one to crack this nut. Also it’s interesting to hear other people’s thoughts about something you care about, in this case this wonderful movie. O well, I guess I just keep rambling on a bit by myself. Hereby I want to note that when I read my posts I discovered many grammatical errors. Once you’ve posted your comment, you don’t seem to be able to correct it. I guess I just have to read it very carefully than before I post it. You know, English is not my mother tongue, so I will screw up from time to time. I hope that people get what I’m trying to convey.

    I have thought about the movie alot lately and essentially want to write this down before I forget it (hey, a touch of Lenny here?). I mean, maybe it would be wiser to write all of these thoughts down first and organise them. To be honest I haven’t got the inclination. I think it is hard enough to resemble my thoughts while I’m typing it down right now. So, I still haven’t got a all encompassing theory, but I have made headway in my understanding of the backplot anyway. I still have questions about a lot of things, but I think that when you realy put your heart into it, you can find an answer for all of them. You see, at this point I do believe one theory is possible. In this post I will again arange my thoughts somewhat. First I’d like to address the nuberplate business, to which I think I found the answer (though as cocky as that may sound). Than I’d would like to bear my thoughts on the backplot: first what actually happened (at least as far as I understand it) and secondly the role of Teddy.

    1. The license plate number
    2. The attack and the car accident
    3. Was Teddy the investigative officer on the case?

    1.
    I never noticed the license plate business before, but thanks to an attentive commentator on this thread I did. I was confused if indeed Lenny wrote down the wrong number, how Natalie could come up with the right licence plate. I thought this had to be a mistake, but I guess Nolan doesn’t make mistakes easily. Than it came to me and I think it is absolutely masterful. The fact is: Lenny does NOT write down the wrong number, it is we, the audience who are being fooled. Nolan deliberately let’s the audience believe that what we think we see is true. Later when we see the licence plate number again (prominently brought into sight) we see that what Lenny wrote down is actually right! At this point, we, the audience start to doubt our own memory. This way Nolan puts us even more into the position of Lenny. Wonderful. By the way, I had it wrong when I mentioned that Lenny writes checks the number on the form he again sees it wrong. He doesn’t of course. Natalie realy does get the right number from him and therefore she is able to find the car of Teddy.

    2.
    At first I thought my “theory” concerning the car accident was far fetched and didn’t realy make sense. After all, you would still have the problem of Lenny realizing that he killed his wife, just like you would when he had killed her accidentally with insuline. There would still be the report he would have to remember and so on. I thought it wasn’t realy logical nor helpful.

    But I believe I was wrong to think that. At this point I’m quite convinced Lenny’s wife died in the car accident and he himself got the head injury. I hope I can keep it brief, but there are alot of things to be sorted out here. First of all it makes sense that Lenny incorporates this accident in the story of Sammy, because he mixes his own life story with that of Sammy and he strongly identifies with him (partly because of their similar conditions, although apparently Sammy faked it). Secondly, and this will take some time, it is logical to assume that when Lenny mixes his story with that of Sammy, he also mixes the attack with the car accident. Let me try to explain.

    First of all I had always trouble figuring out why the second attacker (which is obviously a willful distortion in Lenny’s own mind, but about that later) smashes Lenny’s head against the mirror? Why not the wall, of which there is certainly more of. I thought it was because Nolan wanted to make sure Lenny (and the audience) could see the second attacker, so we believe Lenny’s story. Of course, it is the subjective flashback of Lenny so he must benefit from this image. But back to the smashing of his head against the mirror. When you take it as a fact that the car accident is the REAL “incident”, than this would be a substitute for Lenny smashing his head against the front windscreen. Notice that the effects could easily be the same.

    Now the second thing that I always thought was odd, is that his wife is wrapped in plastic. I thought it was to silence her screaming, but to take a shower curtain and wrap her in it wouldn’t seem very practical. Certainly for a (couple of) junkie(s) who are / is just looking for a quick score. So why this curtain? Again, when you believe the car accident is the real thing, than it is obvious: Lenny’s wife died in the car crash and was dying or dead. I believe she was dead, because that way Lenny could confuse the two images of his wife being alive (surviving the attack) and her being dead in the car accident. While Lenny is still in the car with a heavy head wond barely conscious, he sees his wife being carried away on a stretcher, wrapped in plastic which means she MUST be dead at that point. While Lenny sees this he is still conscious. At this moment he probably realizes that she’s dead and that he’s guilty. It’s only after he loses consiousness he has lost his short term memory. So this way Lenny has time to realizes his guilt which is of vital importance for his repression of it. The way Lenny represses it is by mixing the two incidents and make himself belief that his wife died during the attack.

    This in itself is very ironic of course. Teddy says his wife survived the attack, which is true. Lenny thinks she did, which is false BUT…the last thing Lenny remembers is his wife dying is TRUE! It’s just that he is confused about the occasion.

    3.
    To be able to tell the precise role of Teddy isn’t easy to do. I’m not even sure if it can be done, but I believe we sure can make good guesses and probably rule out alot of things.

    Teddy says he was the investigative officer on the case. Notice that he does not state “this case” or “the attack” and that he keeps it objective. Now, if we believe there were TWO cases, the attack and the car accident, wouldn’t it be very coincidental if Teddy was on both cases? Above all, would these two different cases be handled by the same department? I think we can rule out that Teddy was on both cases, but I think he definately was on one of them, otherwise how could he get in touch with Lenny? I am convinced Teddy would have been on the case of the car accident for several reasons.

    1. There would have been a police report on the car accident. This report must have been given to Lenny himself while he was at the hospital. Still, it would be possible for Lenny to forget this file (deliberately or not). It would have been easy for Teddy, if he was the investigator of the car accident, to give Lenny the report on the attack and not of the car accident.

    2. If Teddy was on the first case and not the second, how could he have known about Lenny’s condition?

    3. If Teddy was on both cases, how could it be that Lenny did not remember him? Furthermore, wouldn’t Teddy’s appearence trigger Lenny’s memory? If he had seen Teddy before his condition, than this image could damage the repression of the car accident.

    4. If Teddy was not on the second case, how could he have known about Sammy? When it was a car accident, I assume the case of Sammy would not come up and would not be in the police report (because of the lack of a criminal investigation). The only way Teddy could have found out about Sammy is through conversations with Lenny (and perhaps his doctors). It is conceivable that only after Teddy found out that Lenny confuses the attack with the car accident and learns he thinks his wife is murdered, he decides to take advantage of him.

    Teddy says that when he gave that file to Lenny, it was complete. So how did Teddy get that file? I assume that while he was investigating the car accident he learned about the attack and this police report. As an investigator he sure could have access to this file easily. But why would Teddy mention that when he gave that file to him it was complete? Is it because he wants to make sure Lenny believes that in fact he himself tore out those pages? And why not mention the crossing out of whole sections?

    Furthermore, Teddy says also: “I am the one who has to live with it ( ). I am the one who put it all together.” So, WHAT did Teddy put together? Does he mean the scheme of using Lenny? Or does he mean the police report of the attack? To me it seems logical to assume that Teddy refers to the police report. He benefits from the fact that the passages that state that Lenny’s wife didn’t die are gone (torn out or crossed out). If Teddy dit NOT give the police report to Lenny, how could Lenny have it since he lost everything due to his condition. So Teddy MUST have been the one who gave it to him, though the question remains if he indeed make the changes. You see, we also learn that Lenny lies to himself deliberately (when he decides to make Teddy his John G.). But I would argue that Lenny at this early stage of his condition would not be inclined to lie to himself. He hasn’t experience the real agony of his condition yet nor has he realy delt with his guilt and grief. He simply wouldn’t be as desperate as later on in life. I’m leaning towards Teddy changing the police report so that Lenny believes his wife died during the attack. This would explain the fact that Teddy says he put it all together. Above all, this way Lenny could not have learned about his wife not dying during the attack through repetition or conditioning (or any other way to store memory). So, in this light Teddy certainly doesn’t tell the whole truth.

    To conclude with what I mentioned earlier: where does the second attacker come from? I alway thought it strange that the second attacker would look exactly like the first attacker exept with a silly white cap. Wasn’t Lenny able to come up with a realy different looking person? I guess not, because he can distort his memory only by so much. I guess he has seen a thousand white caps in his life, so that doesn’t take too much imagination. He needed the second attacker to simulate his injury in the car accident.

    Well, I’m quite pleased with this approach. I’m not saying it is the right one, but it sure covers a lot of ground. I still have many questions mainly regarding the continuity of the movie as well as that damn 15 minutes rest which I simply cannot place. Perhaps I will ponder about that more, but for now I’m done. Time to get a nice cup of coffee.

  179. Erniesam says:

    While sipping at my coffee I realised I left out one thing. I mentioned four reasons I believe to indicate that Teddy was the investigative officer at the car accident. I believe there is even a number 5 and probably the most important of all.

    Because of the car accident Lenny wounded up at the hospital. It is very likely he wnet to a mental hospital after the physical treatment, because Lenny had this condition. So, if Lenny still has this condition, how come the hospital let him go? He couldn’t possibly take care of himself. As we all know, Lenny mentions in the Sammy Jenkis story that he learned to fake it. He learned to fake recognizing people and probably learned to fake alot more in order to not be seen as a freak. I would guess that Lenny learned to fake it extremely well, even so that the doctors may have thought that Lenny could make it outside. But a hospital would never let such a person go without someone looking after him. I pressume this is where Teddy came in. He concocted his scheme to use Lenny beforehand and offered to look after him. Him being the police investigator would make him a credible and probably reliable person. When Lenny did not have any family member or other friend to take care of him, Teddy would seem the logical choice. Perhaps Lenny promised the hospital to contact his family or friends while in the mean time looking after him. The point I would like to stress that in any case, there had to be someone who promised the doctors to take care of Lenny. I believe this to have been Teddy.

  180. Erniesam says:

    So sorry, something struck me just now. I thought I mention it.

    Doesn’t it seem odd that Lenny knows only from the present? Doesn’t he have family or friends? Let’s say he does not have friends or family (which seems pretty odd). He certainly must have colleagues and a boss? It could be that they have contacted him at the hospital and afterwards and broke connection after that. They certainly must have know about Lenny, especially his boss.

    Now if his wife indeed died (which I believe to be the case), than there had to be a funeral. Did Lenny attend the funeral? I suspect not, because of his physical condition. Now, there certainly must have been people at the funeral and they would notice the absence of Lenny. Could it be that they thought he died also? If so, there must have been a funeral, but there wasn’t. So, are we to assume that his wife not die? Either way you look at it, there must be people who know about Lenny’s condition so…where are they?

    One possibillity could be that Lenny’s family and friends don’t know where he is, because of Teddy. But…Lenny himself certainly must remember his friends and family? Why doesn’t he go to them? I guess because Teddy won’t let him. Still, this part of the story doesn’t realy jell, does it?

  181. Michael Butler says:

    Hi Erniesam – I think you and I are probably the only ones contributing to this comment thread currently, and I just joined it recently, so I wouldn’t expect a lot of responses. There’s a lot to pore over in your questions and theories so I don’t think I will adequately reply to everything in one pass. But in this post, let me try to hit the questions/subjects I think are the most important to understanding what was really happening in the story.

    First, though, let me outline my approach. 1) I take the events and statements presented in the movie as being “true” (for the story’s purposes, of course, not in real life) unless they’re contradicted by other events, statements, or behaviors in the movie. 2) If two characters agree on a specific question and there’s nothing else in the movie that contradicts their position, I take that as *strong* evidence of “truth”. 3) Where there are gaps or contradictions in the story, I’ll try to resolve those in with the *simplest* theory I can think of that still fits with other “facts” from the movie. 4) When comparing various theories, I have the most confidence in the ones that close gaps and answer questions without creating more new ones that I can’t answer without additional theories. And 5) I restrict my theorizing to the task of closing gaps and answering questions that are obviously presented in the movie, not secondary questions that just happen to occur to me.

    As Leonard said, “You’ve got to have a system … if you’re going to make it work.” :>)

    Given that, on to some questions:

    Who is Teddy?
    He claims a few times to be a police detective. But when it suits him, Teddy also claims to be an informant who sometimes works with a “bad cop” who has been calling Leonard. This is a contradiction to resolve, so let’s look at some facts.

    The most relevant fact for me is that Teddy, despite claiming to be a cop, evidently doesn’t carry a gun. Even in pre-planned dangerous circumstances involving a drug dealer he expects to be killed and a confused man bent on violent revenge and who has apparently killed before. Teddy even says, “Gun? Why would I have a gun?” Great question because someone who had one would bring it for his own protection to the dangerous situations Teddy contrives. If Teddy were police, why doesn’t he have a gun?

    Next, if Teddy were a detective who originally helped Leonard find the second attacker then a) why doesn’t he have his own copy of the police report? b) why didn’t he help Leonard remember that the attacker was dead by taking him to the tattoo parlor for the “I Did It!” reminder right away? And c) why did Teddy hang on to the polaroid – the only vague evidence that the task was complete – instead of giving it back to Leonard right at the time he killed the first suspect?

    I contend that Teddy was never interested or involved in finding the second attacker and was not a police detective at all. The connection between Leonard and Teddy formed because Leonard came after him as his “John G.” – the second attacker himself – and Teddy successfully manipulated Leonard in to killing someone else instead. Seeing an opportunity to benefit from Leonard’s condition and obsession, Teddy withheld the polaroid, made no effort to help Leonard remember, and continued to manipulate him to seek and destroy new targets.

    So one asks: Of the two contradictory claims Teddy makes – police detective vs. informant (a.k.a. “snitch”) – which claim is better supported by the facts and behaviors? I think the answer is “snitch”. Teddy’s role is to feed information and identify suspects for Leonard to take down and then Teddy collects on it. That’s what confidential informants do, “snitch” for money.

    The only troubling fact is the badge. Why would Teddy have one (which Leonard apparently found after taking Teddy’s wallet)? I think the simplest answer is that he stole it from Leonard, who is the real former police detective. Which brings us to the bigger question …

    Who is Leonard Shelby?
    My case for the Leonard-as-cop theory is in my comment from April 1, here:
    http://taylorholmes.com/2010/07/28/memento-explained/#comment-93878

    And the case for how Leonard forgets he’s a cop is in my comment from Apr 22 here:
    http://taylorholmes.com/2010/07/28/memento-explained/#comment-96268

    One thread in the story that interests me is Leonard stating that he can’t “remember to forget [his wife]” and that he wakes up thinking she’s still alive, allegedly because he can’t form new memories. That’s suspicious since Leonard clearly states that his last memory is of her dying. So it’s not his injury that keeps him from remembering she’s dead. I think this is actually a clue that on a deeper level Leonard knows she didn’t die during the attack (she was still breathing in that last memory) but he has stored (probably intentionally) the information of her actual death under the Sammy Jankis story. Which gives him an escape from the guilt of unintentionally killing her but at the same time denies him access to the full story as his own and not Sammy’s.

    More questions and answers later …

  182. Hey Guys,
    every time someone comments on this blog there are a couple hundred people that get notified. So the blog isn’t dead. But the two of you (specifically you Erniesam) have churned out over 12 pages of single space content in the course of like a couple days! hahah. Its difficult to consume that much content very quickly. I for one am overwhelmed and I WROTE the blog! hahaha. So yeah, have fun. But don’t be too surprised if we aren’t inundated with responses! Consumable chunks are easier to digest. But who am I to talk… I’m the most verbose guy here!

    Taylor

  183. Erniesam says:

    Hi Taylor,

    Yeah the amount seems a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it? It’s just that when I’m on the roll I gotta keep going you dig? Ha, just kidding. It’s just I’m trying to figure the stuff out and it keeps in my head if I don’t get a handle on the problems. I know, some find it ridiculous to take such a film or any film so seriously. I don’t consider the film to be seriously, I’m just having fun puzzling. Than again I find the movie so much more than just a puzzle; it’s about the uniqueness of the experience of travelling backwards in time and still find such a compelling story.

    I have done this sort of thing before concerning Mulholland Drive. That was on a Dutch movie forum (I live in the Netherlands). I started by simply stating my thoughts on the movie. Than there came more. And still more until I finally was satisfied with my own view on the movie. Well, this started because of a discussion I had in that site. At this point I do not have the intention to write that much, but I can’t say for sure. It depends on how quick I will come up with a satisfying theory.

    I hope it is alright to write that much. I guess you’re right that it is easier to write in consumable chunks, but often I write as it comes to me. I have a general idea in my head that I want to convey or explore and while writing I often expand the idea itself. I would be happy to write in little chunks if you think that is neccessary. I try to do that anyway, but I cannot give you guarantees. Perhaps I can chop my comment up in different sections when I’m finished.

    I do not intend to write just my theory. Personally I hate it when people get all tangled up in their own theories and don’t take others suggestions into account. That’s why I was a little disappointed that there were no responses so far. I guess, as you say, it will take indeed some time before people get a handle on my comments so that they form their own opinions about it. In the meantime I just keep thinking about it and try to write as compact as possible, though I do like clarity myself. I find that talking about this picture you have to be very precise and detailed, because if you are not chances are you will be misunderstood.

    Nice to hear you have other blogs as well. May I ask which movies you cover or do you have other interests as well (haha). I’d like to see if these blogs will raise my interest as well. I find this blog to be pretty good and most comments are insightful. I did try several other blogs or websites about this movie, but they seemed to be dead or boring. So, my compliments.

  184. Erniesam says:

    Hey Michael Butler,

    Nice to hear your views on it. I see you ar at it also. Can’t seem to let go, hey. Same problem here. I see you have a totally different take on it than I have, although some interpretations I share with you. I find it difficult to stray from my own train of thought, because of some things I seem so convinced. But that’s the famous blind spot for ya. When you have turned into some specific kind of thinking, you are blind to other views and suggestions on the topic. So the best I can do is to try to be objective. I’d like to run through your post and see if your ideas work (well, in my view).

    First of all, I like your suggestion how Teddy came to know Lenny. This part seems to be very difficult, because his real name also concurs with John G. The explanation I had and which I wrote down on this thread, doesn’t hold up to scrutiny and to be honest I wasn’t quite pleased with it when I wrote it. Your suggestion certainly explains the similarity between Teddy and the name John G. Still, there are problems with this view.

    To begin: if Lenny tracked down Teddy as John Gammel, where did Lenny get the name John G. from?
    Secondly and perhaps most importantly, when Lenny has tracked down his John G. there is no way the victim can change his mind. Lenny has gathered the evidence, how flawed it may be, has tattoed it on his body and what not so at that moment he is convinced he is right. Just look at the murder of Teddy: at this point he knows all about Lenny and even with this knowledge he cannot persuade him to believe otherwise. So when Lenny is a complete stranger to Teddy, how is he ever able to change his mind? I contend that this is not possible.

    Your second point I find interesting too. You doubt whether Teddy is a cop or a snitch and you believe he is the latter (partly, as you say, the one rules the other out). I don’t believe you can dismiss elements that easy. The problem is that Teddy is lying often to Lenny and it’s not easy to tell when he tells the truth (if he ever does) and when he lies. You know of course that every 15 minutes or so Lenny’s memory is blank, so to put it bluntly every 15 minutes there is a new round with new chances. The lie that worked in the first 15 minutes doesn’t necessarily work in the second because of changed circumstances. At the tattoo parlor Teddy tells Lenny this story about a bad cop being at the hotel who sometimes calls Lenny. He says that Lenny must be aware of him and not trust him. So why would Teddy tell this? I believe it is because of a quarrel he and Lenny had over the phone. This is the reason why Lenny had put the tattoo “Never answer the phone” on his leg. Teddy knows he screwed up on the phone and that’s why tells Lenny there’s a bad cop, so that Lenny believes this tatto only refers to the bad cop. This bad cop is of course Teddy himself, but Lenny does not know that (he cannot even recognize voices!). But you talked about Teddy being a snitch or a cop. To be honest I can’t recall this scene where Teddy says he’s a snitch exactly, so I havo to get back to you on that. My point is that even if stories of Teddy contradict each other, doesn’t mean they both cannot be true (because of Lenny’s condition).

    Another reason you thought it is unlikely Teddy being a cop is beacuse he would otherwise have reminded Lenny that his “John G.” was already dead and he wouldn’t have kept the picture. Your right that a “good” cop would not do this, but that’s the whole point. Teddy IS a roque cop who takes advantage of Lenny. He doesn’t want Lenny to know he already killed “his John G.” and he kept the polaroid of Lenny in case he badly needed “proof” of his truthfulness towards Lenny. Like when after the screw up on the phone Teddy could convince Lenny with this picture to trust him again.

    You wonder why Teddy has no gun. Indeed he says: “A gun? Why would I have a gun.” I admit I also wondered about this and have doubted Teddy was a police officer because of this statement. But I think I got a reasonable explanantion for it. You see, Teddy is an agent who works undercover (that’s what he says and I think it is true, because if he is a policeman and is NOT doing undercoverwork, wouldn’t he be missed at his real job?). He is targeting the drugscene which can be very dangerous indeed. We know Teddy is telling the people he deals with that he’s a cop (we hear Natalie and Jimmy Grants referring to him as “the cop”). It’s much safer to not wear a gun when he deals with these people. This way he does not pose a threat tho the dealers, because they think he is harmless. Teddy let Lenny do his dirty work for him. Teddy doesn’t need a gun, because Lenny functions as his bodyguard when Teddy is on a job. It’s interesting to see Teddy’s reaction when he finds out Lenny has a gun. He seems to be a bit startled. That’s no surprise, because Lenny can be very unpredictable, so I guess Teddy doesn’t like it.

    You state that you think the badge poses a problem, but your suggestion is that Lenny was a cop and that Teddy stole it from him. I’m not familiar with police badges, but doesn’t it contain the name of the officer? Well, even if it doesn’t I’m not convinced Lenny was a cop. On that more later.

    Finally, you content that Teddy should have had his own copy of the police report if he was a police officer (let alone the investigative officer). Well, how do we know that he doesn’t have a copy? It’s nver stated that he doesn’t, it’s only mentioned (by Teddy) that he himself gave the file to Lenny. So, he could very well have a copy.

    You suggest that Lenny was not a insurance investigator, but probably a police officer. I have to agree with you that a past of insurance investigator is very doubtful and I believe he was not (but I will dwell on that in another post). You say he could have been a cop because of
    – the copy of a police file. But every suspect or participant in a crime or accident does get a copy of the police file, don’t they?
    – the evidence board / map in his hotel. You mean he must have experience in laying out evidence and plan his actions? Well, I guess you can learn that in lots of different occupations or indeed in alot of different ways. Above all, the best way to learn something is when you need it badly. And Lenny needs desperately to find his “John G”.
    – carries his camera like a shoulder holster. This could also mean he was a gangster. I mean, I concur that this could be a clue, but it doesn’t exclude other possibillities.
    – flashes picture like a badge. Yes, it sure looks looks like a manner the police would show, but I bet lots of other people show pictures like that to others.
    – knows how to open doors and how to fight (in bathroom). Well, this could be things he learned as a cop, but it does not exclude all other possibillities I’m afraid.

    I would add to this list that Lenny knows how to handle a gun. That could also mean he used to be a cop. The problem is, that his past as cop should fit all other aspects of the movie too. Though I’m far from figuring it all out, but one obvious question would come to mind: where are all his collegues?

    I like your reasoning and your different approach of the movie. Some aspects are very interesting (mainly because they fill in some gaps in my own approach), but it seems that to take something as true or more likely than the other you may end up tossing out vital clues. Like I said, I find it difficult to stray from my own train of thought but it is often more enlighting to take a sidetrack and see things from another perspective.

    I’d like to hear some of your other thoughts on different aspects of the movie.

  185. Erniesam says:

    WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF LEONARD? PART 1

    Maybe the above does look a bit pretentious, but with this I try to be as clear and succinct as I can. Because I think this topic will take some lenghty explanation I split it up in two posts.

    I can’t seem to figure out what Lenny’s past might be and this drives me crazy. The question that mainly bothers me is : where are Lenny’s friends and family? So I started toying with the idea that Lenny might have been a petty criminal, a nobody. Someone who had no family and whom nobody cares about. This could solve the following problems easily:

    – This way Lenny would know how to handle a gun, unlock doors with credit cards and how to fight.
    – Since Lenny didn’t know anyone, the hospital would agree more easily to let Teddy take care of him

    The things that contradicts this option would be:

    – If Lenny was a petty criminal, how could he have “exposed Sammy” like Teddy says?

    When Lenny knew Sammy because they hang out together he could have witnessed Sammy employing his scheme of fooling the insurance company. He could have been at his house when the insurance inveswtigator visited Sammy. He could also have been at the hospital and heard Sammy telling him about the tests he has undergone. This way Lenny could have known about the tests and in his fantasy replaces himself with the insurance investigator which he had witnessed or heard about through Sammy. This way Lenny would also have known that Sammy’s condition was fake, which he turned around in his fantasy in order for Sammy to be not guilty of killing his wife.

    How about the scenes at the Insurance Company? How could Lenny have pictured that? Well, it seems to me that as a petty criminal he often would have been at a police station. Furthermore, he would sometimes or even often talked to police and probation officers (hence Sammy’s wife visiting Lenny at his office, while in fact he could have remembered this woman that was his probation officer. This way he also would have turned things upside down). In these scenes Lenny talks about learning how to recognize people’s body language and facial expressions when they’re lying. This he could have easily learned as a petty criminal for whom it is of vital importance to know if people are truthful or not. Furthermore, it would be important for Lenny himself to learn how to fool other people, so this way too he could have turned reality upside down: it is not he himself who studied other people’s body language, but he felt that he was being scrutinized by others.

    This scenario works perfectly until the statement of Teddy when he says that Lenny exposed Sammy for what he was; a con man, a fraud. Hey, it suddenly hit me. It COULD be true! I always thought that Lenny must have been investigating Sammy as an insurance or a police investigator in order to be able to expose him. But that’s not true! If Lenny and Sammy hung out together and Lenny knew about Sammy faking it, he could have snitched on Sammy in order to make a deal! So he exposed Sammy by snitching on him.

    I was planning to write in another post a scenario in which Lenny was a police officer, This would also explain all of the above EXCEPT the fact that Lenny doesn’t appear to have any friends, family or colleagues. This could be possible, but certainly not probable.

  186. Erniesam says:

    WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF LEONARD? PART 2

    Why do I not believe that Lenny was an insurance investigator? There are several things in the movie that makes me suspicious of that. One thing that realy struck me was that the movie itself is suspicious in not giving any tenable proof that Lenny was an insurance investigator.

    1. We see Lenny visiting Sammy at his house, but nothing in these scenes actually proofs him being an insurance investigator. Sure, he is dressed up nicely and carries an attache case. We never see the content of the papers he is discussing. So, he could be just a friend who is visting. Or a police officer. Or…you fill in the blank.

    2. We see Lenny at an office, but this could be any office or building. Furthermore, we never see Lenny interact with collegues or his boss. In fact, I find it very suspicious that we NEVER see any collegue; we only see Lenny working alone.

    3. We hear indeed Lenny talking about recognizing body language, while we see different faces with different ticks. This too is not inherently linked to insurance business; this scene could be applied on many different occupations or situations. Like I suggested before, I think Lenny experienced similar scenes during his “career” as a petty criminal.

    Still, this absence of clear proof Lenny being an insurance investigator doesn’t proof that he wasn’t. There is one thing more that helped me convince Lenny was not and that is when he tells in the car that he knows who he is. When Teddy states: “You don’t even know who YOU are” Lenny begins to tell about him being an insurance agent, him having had a wife etc. But…the way he says it is very telling. He doesn’t say it normally, but he recites it. Just like he does when he tells Nathalie about his wife and she urges him to not recite the words but to speak from his heart. To recite something is the best way to learn it by heart. Why doesn’t Lenny just speak about his past instead of reciting it? Could it be that because he does tell the story of Sammy Jenkis over and over he has learned this by heart (though according to Teddy the story gets better and better everytime Lenny tells it)? Lenny recites the words of him being an insurance agent and this to me seems to suggest he has learned this by heart through the retelling of his Sammy Jenkis story.

    Where does Lenny get the notion of him being an insurance agent? Like I said before, he could have picked this up by witnessing a real investigator at Sammy’s house. The point of Lenny telling the story over and over is not because he wants to remember the images for these are all real (otherwise he cannot imagine them!). To me it seems the reason would be that he can remember (through repetition) the meaning of the images. For it is by switching the meaning of the different images that Lenny can concoct this fantasy that suppresses his memory of the car accident and his responsibillity. It’s like some test in grammar school where one is asked to match two different words together with similar meanings. Through repetition Lenny forces himself to remember images of his past with the wrong meaning attached to it.

    The fact that Lenny recites his story to Teddy seems to me irrefutable proof that Lenny was in fact NOT what he says he was. In fact, I believe Lenny cannot remember his past AT ALL, certainly not the way it realy happened. We hear from him that he says he does, but there’s nothing in the movie to collaborate that statement. Indeed it is suspicious that everything Lenny claims he does remember suits him perfectly to suppress his own guilt.

  187. Michael Butler says:

    Hi Erniesam – I see you’re coming around to the theory that Leonard was possibly a police detective. Keep working on it, as I believe there are more reasons to believe that than to believe Teddy is a cop.

    You refer a lot to the fact that Leonard seems to be alone. One possibility is that Leonard escaped from the mental hospital and has been on the run while trying to track down John G. at the same time. In fact, in the short story – titled “Memento Mori” – which inspired the movie, the main character does escape from a mental hospital to track down his suspect. There is nothing I saw in the movie that suggests this but it works better than the theory that he was released to Teddy’s supervision. There’s no evidence of that either and Teddy doesn’t even claim it when he is trying to save his own life.

  188. Erniesam says:

    Hey there Michael,

    I believe you’re right. I was all lost in my own thoughts, that I didn’t realize I jumped through several hoops just to make it work. As you say, it is best to keep the explanation as simple as possible. My suggestion that Teddy supervised Lenny after his stay in the mental hospital did not make sense. I believe that Teddy did not met Lenny but the other way around. I haven’t read the story of Jonathan Nolan, perhaps that would be a good idea. Your suggestion that Lenny might have escaped from the hospital is a good one. I hadn’t thought about that. Also your notion that Lenny was a cop is something I am strongly considering myself now. Let me try and run this scenario as brief and to the point as I can.

    Lenny escapes from the mental hospital (driven by his desire for vengeance). A couple of questions:
    – Did the police let him keep his badge, when he was in this condition? Well, it could be, because sometimes anterograde amnesia does pass.
    – Did the police put out a search warrant or did’t they believe this case to be that important because Lenny was not a killer?
    – Yet again: what about his family and friends. They wouldn’t know where he is, of course, but wouldn’t they push the police to go look for him?

    After his escape Lenny hooks up with shady figures, because due to his condition (no money, little clothes etc) he hasn’t got anywhere to go (than again: wouldn’t he just go back to his house, or wouldthat already be sold?) THis person he hangs out with wants to get rid of John Gammel because he’s a snitch for the police. He feeds Lenny different clues to this, including the tattoo on his chest. Being a snitch, John knows what goes around and finds out about it. He gets in contact with Lenny, introduces himself as Teddy and lures him away from the person that wanted him out of the way. So he takes Lenny out of San Francisco away from that scene. He knows Lenny wants to get revenge, so Teddy picks a John G. whereby he figures to get something out of it. I do think that Teddy believes that once Lenny has killed that person he will be “cured.” After Teddy finds out that Lenny still does not remember, he figures he can use Lenny more often and so the scheme is born.

    Teddy does say he knows people at the police department, which I believe to be true. Furthermore, as a snitch he could have access to Lenny’s file as well as that of Sammy Jenkis. His badge he could have gotten from Lenny, since Lenny does not remember he was a cop.

    I have googled some info about anterograde amnesia and it seems there are a lot of variations of it. It all depends what part of the brain is damaged and how severe. Some cases get their memory back though often the trauma itself will remain a blank. Furthermore, there are cases whereby the person has retrograde as well as anterograde amnesia. These different forms of amnesia do not come in one size fits all: they vary from person to person. It is generally understood that amnesia is dived into three different parts in the brain, whereby one can be damaged while the others function normally. One distinction for instance is between episodic and semantic memory. A person can have forgotten all of his autobiographical elements (like in the case of Lenny) and still remember all objective truths like “who discovered America.” Also behavioral knowledge is stored in a different section in the brain, so Lenny certainly can learn by doing things over and over without him consciously being aware of his abillity to do that.

    It always struck me as odd that we never hear or see tangible proof of Lenny remembering his past. We never hear him mentioning his wife’s name for instance. Could it be that Lenny has got a severe form of amnesia and that he also does not remember the past as it realy was but only as he wants it to be? He mirrors himself to Sammy Jenkins, who faked that he had anterograde amnesia (that’s where he learned the terminology). Because of this identification, Lenny believes he himself also has the same condition, while in fact he has no way of knowing that. We, the audience, and everyone around him who bothers to look into his condition knows that he has anterograde amnesia, but I believe Lenny has got some form of retrograde amnesia as well. That’s why he cannot remember he was a cop, but believes he was an insurance agent. I also believe that this distortion of his memory is deliberate to suppress his guilt of his wife’s death.

    But than again I’m no amnesia expert.

  189. Michael Butler says:

    A quick comment to provide what I think are plausible answers to some important questions.

    Where did the case files and badge come from?
    If Leonard was indeed a detective, then the simplest answer is that some colleague from the police department gave them to Leonard either while he was hospitalized or after he escaped.

    How did Leonard link up with Teddy?
    The movie implies that the case file contained information on the attacker’s car, the stash of drugs that were left in it and, one assumes, the identity of the first attacker. With these facts plus additional investigation and perhaps some help from whoever gave him the files and badge, Leonard eventually comes upon the name John G. and enough information to start asking around about him. Teddy, who is a petty criminal, possibly a confidential informant and also the John G. that Leonard is searching for, hears from an acquaintance or two that a guy with a weird condition is asking around about him. Leonard might have left his phone number with the people he questioned as he was not yet aware of his vulnerability to deceit and manipulation over the phone. Teddy gets the number from one of his associates who were questioned and decides to call Leonard and start feeding him false information to get him off of Teddy’s trail. I believe Teddy does most of his effective misdirection over the phone in this way and that Teddy is the one on the other side of the line during all of the movie’s black-and-white telephone conversation scenes.

    More later …

  190. Michael Butler says:

    One more question and answer:

    What happened to Leonard’s polaroids from his prior escapades with Teddy?

    Since it’s suggested that Leonard has been associated with Teddy for over a year, it’s telling that Leonard doesn’t have a picture of him when the movie begins and so snaps one outside of the Discount Inn. Possibly, all prior evidence of their misdeeds together, including Leonard’s previous set of polaroids, were burned, as Leonard is emphatic that pictures need to be burned in order to be destroyed (which he states to Natalie). This practice may also have led to Leonard’s ritual of burning his wife’s things (or vice versa). It’s also possible that Teddy was present for this evidence destruction, if it occurred right after the first killing, and managed to salvage Leonard’s badge and the polaroid of him at this time.

  191. Michael Butler says:

    Another open question:

    On the lack of police, friends, or family searching for Leonard …

    We can’t be sure who all may be looking for Leonard (the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence) but if he escaped from the hospital, it stands to reason there’s a missing persons or some other case open somewhere. We do know that Leonard is no longer in San Francisco, though, so they may just be searching for him in the wrong places and may not be searching that hard either, since we don’t have any evidence that Leonard’s crimes are known to authorities or that they’d consider him dangerous.

  192. Erniesam says:

    Aha Michael,

    You’ve touched on a very peculiar thing indeed: the missing polaroid of Teddy. I haven’t thought this through yet, so I will have to come back to yet about that. At this moment I have one question about your suggestion: why would Lenny burn the polaroid of Teddy after the / a killing? Because he doesn’t need him anymore? And another question unrelated to your suggestion: why would Lenny not write down on the polaroid that Teddy is a cop?

    It seems that we got the same ideas about how Lenny got to know Teddy, except for some minor details. You know, I don’t see how Lenny could come up with the name John G. based on the evidence he gathered and above all: how could he know the real name of Teddy? My point being concerning the first question: I don’t believe there WAS a second attacker and that Lenny made him up. To me it’s just way to convenient to have this second attacker so he can get his revenge. After all, there is no mentioning of him in the police file.

    As for Lenny getting the police file in the hospital, I definately see it differently than you do. You seem to believe that Lenny is hospitalized after the attack. Indeed, he believes his wife is dead, while Teddy tells him that she survived the attack. If his wife is not dead, where is she? Above all Teddy states: “It was you, Lenny. It was you.”

    Without going into details, I believe Lenny’s wife died in the car accident mentioned in the Sammy Jenkis story. I also believe that this is where Lenny got his brain damage and anterograde amnesia from. This means that Lenny did not have the police file with him in the hospital and that he probably did not get it there. He concocted this story about a second attacker, escaped and tried to find him. He meets Teddy, a snitch with contacts with the police, and tells him about it. Teddy checks with his contacts within the department and gets the case file of this attack. The question remains whether Teddy himself made changes in the file or that Lenny indeed himself did this. After all, Lenny claims the police did not believe him because of his condition, but couldn’t it be that he himself did not trust the police? Or did not want to?

    This way Lenny could have extensive knowledge of the case file, because he did not have anterograde amnesia yet. Because during his hospital stay Lenny concocted this story about a second attacker (to repress his own guilt and create the opportunity for revenge, as a substitute for his grief) he had to get rid of certain passages in the file. So I do believe Lenny tore out those 12 pages himself. My guess is that Teddy realy wanted to help Lenny (out of self interest first of course) but when he discovered that Lenny forgot that he already took revenge, Teddy decides to make use of him.

    As for Sammy Jenkis, it could be that Teddy also requested the file on this case with his contact within the police department. But my guess would be that he knew Sammy personally, because as Teddy states: Sammy was a con man, a fraud. Someone who Teddy as a snitch could easily have known personally. As for Teddy meeting Lenny I guess that would not be that difficult. I assume Teddy knew Lenny, though not personally, but as a cop. He could have gotten info from his contact and found out what he looked like and I guess he would also be able to find out where Lenny stayed.

    So, I don’t know if you believe Lenny got his condition during the attack, Michael, but I do not. And this is of crucial importance for everything that follows it, of course.

  193. Erniesam says:

    Now I have my cup of coffee next to me, I would like to explore what is to me the greatest logical obstacle and that would be Lenny being aware of his own condition.

    Like undoubtedly many people (at least on this thread) I have wondered how Lenny could be conscious of his own condition. So, I’ve googled some articles about anterograde amnesia and search for potential possibillities. Maybe I’ve got something finally, although I’m not quite sure.

    It apparently is quite common for people with anterograde amnesia to be aware of the fact that they are forgetful. Some cases are not aware of it, but many cases are. But as I’ve learned by these articles, none of every case studied was aware of the fact that they had anterograde amnesia. None knew about their having a short term memory span of very limited time. This seem indeed to be impossible. But than none of these cases knew about anterograde amnesia beforehand. This is why Lenny is able to more or less cope with his condition: because he studied Sammy Jenkis.

    Lenny never states he has anterograde amnesia. He always talks about his condition. He knows about anterograde amnesia because he investigated Sammy Jenkis who had this condition, although he faked it. This investigation is stored in Lenny’s long term memory, yes, but Lenny did not know at first that he could relate to this memory, because he was at first not aware of his condition. Lenny does however learn that he’s forgetful, so at one point he must have assiciated his forgetfulness with the amnesia of Sammy. That’s when he wrote it down and this would be the beginning of his notes and tattoos. His first being the “remember Sammy Jenkis” tattoo. So, this tattoo at first is meant to remind him of Sammy Jenkis, stored in his long term memory. I guess the reason why Lenny rubs this tattoo frequently is firstly becauuse this is the first tattoo he sees everytime he wakes up and secondly because he doesn’t need reminding of Sammy anymore because of the fact he tells this story all the time: through repetition and conditioning this story has become a part of him. This story is at the front of his long term memory because of his telling the story so often, he doesn’t need the tattoo anymore.

    Lennt never states he has the same condition Sammy has, but that he uses this story to explain his own condition. We learn that his story of Jenkis doesn’t fit reality. In fact, we learn that the way Lenny tells this story, he has incorporated many autobiographical elements: that he has replaced himself with Sammy. Through this strong identification with Sammy, Lenny tells people (Bert, the hotel clerk) that he has this condition where he tends to forget the early part of the conversation (the real awareness of forgetfullness) and even that he shall not remember Bert anymore after a while. This Lenny must have picked up from Sammy’s condition through strong identification. Because of his intentional distortion of his long term memory to suppress the trauma and his obsessiveness with Sammy Jenkis, Lenny conflates his condition with that of Sammy. This doesn’t mean that Lenny is actually aware of him being amnesiac, but just that he conflates or even just compares his condition with that of Sammy’s. The irony is, that he is right.

    At this moment, this is as close as I can get to explain the awareness of Lenny of his condition. In any case, the fact that he constanty tells the story of Sammy is of vital importance. Firstly to make the connection between his condition with that of Sammy’s, secondly to rearrange his memory with different meanings attached to it and thirdly to keep his suppression of the trauma intact.

  194. Michael Butler says:

    Was there a second attacker?

    Both Leonard and Teddy state there was a second attacker, though they both could be wrong or lying (they’d both be going off of Leonard’s recollection anyway). The only supporting evidence for a single attacker, on the other hand, is the conclusion of the police report. Leonard explains the report’s finding as being merely convenient for the police, which I find plausible. My question is, did the police report actually consider a second attacker at all? If it did, then Leonard reported this version of events before his wife actually died, not as part of his later “re-programming” in the hospital to explain his wife’s death.

    But aside from the validity of the single-attacker idea, does this version even seem likely? For the single attacker theory to be true, I can only think of two basic sequences of events for the attack, neither of which I find particularly convincing:

    1) Leonard sustains a brain-debilitating injury from the attacker yet still manages to fire a successful kill shot.

    2) Leonard fires the kill shot during a scuffle with the attacker but then still manages to sustain a brain-debilitating injury afterward, presumably by falling and hitting his head just after the shot.

    If either of these scenarios had occurred, I think the movie would have suggested more doubt by using differing images like they did with the hospital scene, with the “ouch” needle/pinch incident, and the image of Leonard’s wife still breathing after the attack.

    No such alternate images of the attack’s order of events are presented, which leads me to take Leonard’s version seriously, at least. So we only have the police report, which I think Leonard adequately impugns as convenient for the police and, as such, not necessarily definitive. Of the scenarios above, I find neither to appear more likely than Leonard’s, so I’m inclined to find Leonard’s version both simpler and easier to believe.

  195. Michael Butler says:

    Lenny’s wife’s death

    I think she died of an insulin overdose administered inadvertently by Leonard, just as the Sammy Jankis story suggests, if you apply the events to Leonard instead of Sammy (which the switch image in the hospital may imply we should do). In other words, I don’t think there were two people with anterograde amnesia (which would have been quite a coincidence). There’s only one person with this affliction and it’s Leonard. Leonard changed the “attack” parts of the report to “car accident” in his notes as he was assimilating the Sammy story.

  196. Erniesam says:

    I haven’t figured this one out yet, but I’m toying with the idea that the attack actually never took place!

    My reasons for doubting the validity of the story.
    1. Obviously the memory of Lenny cannot be trusted, so why would we believe him?
    2. It’s just too coincidental: the robber / two robbers were thought to be junkies and Teddy, the man who helps Lenny, happens to be involved in the world of drugdealing?
    3. Lenny says it isn’t in the police report. But wouldn’t a disagreement between the victim and the police be in the police file?

    Mind you, I’m not sure about this theory, but it would at least solve a couple of problems. So how would this have worked?

    The real incident has been a car crash wherein Lenny got his condition and his wife was badly injured. Lenny realy does think his wife is dead and cannot cope with it. So his mind begins to work on a “coverup story.” Lenny mixes the car accident with a scene he has encountered in his career as a cop or a police investigator, perhaps many times: a fight with hoodlums or a bust of a crime gang or you name it. That’s where he gets the images of these robbers from. He mixes them so he buries his own responsibillity of his wife’s “death” and he got a reason to go on: taking revenge on his wife’s “murderer.” He makes himself belief that the killer of his wife has not been caught, because the police did not believe him.

    When Lenny meets Teddy he tells him this story over and over again. So Teddy checks up and finds there is no police file of it. He only finds out about the car accident. He knows Lenny wants to take revenge, so Teddy concocts this scheme whereby he plans to use Lenny to rip off people, in his case drugdealers. Teddy than puts this file together of the “attack” based on what Lenny tells him about it. That’s why Teddy says: “I’m the one who put it al together.” Teddy must leave out the second attacker, otherwise the police would have looked into it and concluded there was none. And if there was, they would have looked for him. Above all, if Teddy wrote that the police thought there was another attacker, than Lenny would have gone to the police and ask them for help. Teddy does not want that. If this approach is right, than Teddy did indeed give Lenny a copy of this file and complete too.

    Now what about the 12 pages that are missing and all the crossing in the file? This than must have been done by Lenny himself. But why? Perhaps it was Teddy himself who had crossed out whole sections just to avoid having to include personal info about Lenny he did not have. He could always blame this on Lenny himself. If this is true, than Lenny cannot remember this file. He can deduce there must be a police file concerning the incident, but not what’s exactly in it.

    There are two major reasons why I believe this “theory” of Teddy producing the file himself could be true.

    1. Lenny states that what Teddy tells him over the phone seems to collaborate with his own findings. Of course this could mean that Teddy simply had read the file, but one thing I find very odd: the report states that the robbers were probably junkies. I find this way too coincidental. It is more logical to assume that Teddy put thus into the file himself so that Lenny would move into his circle being the world of drugdealing.

    2. If the attack realy took place and this is an authentic file of that case, wouldn’t it contain so much about Lenny’s personal life like him being a cop etc.? How can Lenny maintain he was an insurance investigator, while in the file he often reads it states he was a cop? It could be that he tore those pages out, along with other info that contradicted his memory. An exlanation could be that Teddy tore out those pages in order to let Lenny belief the file was incomplete. Teddy himself benefits from the fact that Lenny cannot solve the puzzle, so that his scheme of using Lenny can potentialy last forever.

    I’m not quite convinced of this theory myself, but it does solve a couple of problems.
    1. The coincidence of the drugrelated issue along side the drug angle of Teddy himself
    2. Teddy mentioning: “I’m the one who put it al together.”
    3. Teddy knowing all about the file and above all; how the content of the file coincides exactly with his needs.
    4. Teddy getting a copy of the file, because I do not think that an informant would be able to let his contact let him have a file, let alone from a colleague of the contact.

    I’m still working on this one, but at this point I’m leaning towards it. What had struck me as odd from the get go is: what a miserable life Lenny’s wife must have had if she was first brutally raped and later on accidentally killed. Perhaps Murphy’s Law is at play here, but I find these two occurences happening to the same woman also pretty coincidental.

  197. Erniesam says:

    Hi Michael,

    Have read through your posts quickly. Right now I haven’t got the time to delve into what you adress, but it made me doubt my latest theory. I have checked the dialogue at the ed of the movie just now and I can’t seem to point to a clue that Lenny’s wife is dead. Teddy never says that. In fact, he says the opposite. I believe Lenny’s wife to be alive. This would mean that Lenny never did kill his wife, only that he thinks he did. This would mean also that my theory of the car crash being the real incident and nothing more could be true. I still have to think that through, though.

    I will get back to you and discuss your suggestions. Right now I have something else to do. I do have a life, you know.

  198. Michael Butler says:

    One of the reasons I adhere to the methodology I outlined before is to avoid inventing new theories that a) literally can’t be substantiated from what’s in the movie (and thus must be supported with additional theories) and b) causes us to disregard much of what actually is presented in the movie in favor of things that are not.

    The reasons to disregard the attack entirely aren’t convincing to me. We don’t trust Leonard’s memory of the attack so instead we trust his mere mention of a car accident and then insert his wife into that event? I think it’s more likely that the car accident is the event that should be ignored, since we have to ignore more of the movie and invent details about the accident that can’t be substantiated in order to make the theory work.

    Second, there’s nothing coincidental about Teddy being involved with drugs, like the attackers. It is this link that leads Leonard to Teddy to begin with, as the real John G.

    Third, I think that Lenny’s testimony about the 2nd attacker is in the police report. They just didn’t chase it down because they disregarded Lenny’s testimony (as you’re doing), and they thought they had all of the info they needed to close the case.

    When Teddy says he “put it all together”, he’s referring to planning the killing of people who aren’t the real John G. He says this in the context of Leonard having the benefit of forgetting their past deeds while Teddy has to remember them.

    Teddy knows about the file because he has discussed it with Leonard over the phone several times and Leonard has probably showed it to him, while seeking help in his investigation from the Teddy posing as a cop.

    So these are not problems that require a new theory of the injury event in order to resolve.

  199. Michael Butler says:

    Ernie – reading back over your recent posts, I notice now that a seemingly strong motivator for coming up with an alternate injury scenario is based on questions about how Leonard can remember information from the police report if he only read it after his injury. But don’t we have the same question if Leonard’s injury resulted from a car accident? Or maybe I’m misunderstanding the full theory you’re proposing.

    In any case, I don’t know how much Leonard really remembers from the report itself because he seems often to have it in front of him when he refers to information in it.

    But either way, let me propose an explanation for this apparent recollection that might obviate the need for an alternate injury-event theory: Even after his injury, Leonard is able to store information after rigorous repetition over a long period of time (let’s say hours or days, for the sake of argument). This type of memory storage is exactly what is suggested in the Sammy Jankis story, though it seems to be restricted to physical memory in the story. But if applied to retention of more detailed information as well, this would help explain how Leonard commits the Sammy Jankis story to memory (even if altered) and should also allow him to store information from the police report of the attack. Further, if Leonard (and/or someone else) were to change or remove sections of the report or the Sammy Jankis story and Leonard continued this repetition, he would eventually retain the modified information without remembering that it was modified.

  200. Michael Butler says:

    Ernie – A second stumbling block you mentioned seems to be accounting for Leonard’s ability to find Teddy to begin with. Here’s a simple example of how that might have gone down.

    Step 1) Leonard gets the name of the dead attacker from the police report and asks someone he knew at the police department to give him a list of the attacker’s prior arrests as well as people he was known to work with (or was arrested with) and their last known addresses.

    Step 2) Leonard canvases the addresses asking the listed associates what they know about the attack on his wife and that the attack may have involved a drug deal. Someone from this list identifies a John G. as a mysterious figure with drug connections who the attacker may have mentioned. The informant names a bar where the attacker hung out and may have met John G.

    Step 3) Leonard proceeds to the bar asking about John G. Teddy is there but tells Leonard his name is Teddy, says he doesn’t know the attacker but is at this bar a lot and could keep his ears open and help Leonard with his investigation (maybe for a finder’s fee). Because Leonard is not yet aware of his vulnerability on the phone, he leaves his number with Teddy to call if he hears anything new.

    Step 4) Having first-hand experience with Leonard’s condition from the bar, Teddy calls him and, noticing that Leonard doesn’t recognize his voice, begins the phone manipulation that results in Leonard killing the wrong guy.

    This scenario doesn’t seem so far-fetched to me as long as Leonard kept his list of suspects and addresses straight long enough. And once someone pointed him in the right direction toward Teddy, the rest of the story writes itself.

  201. Erniesam says:

    Hi Michael,

    Just a quick response to your analysis of my “alternate injury-event” theory. Mind you, I’m not convinced of this myself, it’s just a theory which at this point seems to cover the most ground for me.

    My problems with the memory of the attack:
    1. Lenny remembers him loading his gun, holding it again his shoulders and go about it like it was a police raid. Why would Lenny remember such an action, when this was probably very routine?
    2. The shower curtain around Lenny’s wife.
    3. How could the police believe there was only one attacker, when Lenny shot shot him while at the same time have gotten an awful head injury?
    4. If it was not Lenny’s fault that his wife has been raped, why does he blame himself (by concocting the Sammy Jenkis story)?
    5. Is coping with the grief over the dead of his wife (Lenny believes she is dead anyway) enough to make him make up a second attacker so he can take revenge?

    If you believe this attack story, you have to explain these things. Furthermore, the story of Sammy is not simply a distortion of his memory due to him telling it all the time, it clearly is meant to suppress the event. But…it doesn’t! In this story he still sees his wife die exept he imagines it is Sammy who killed HIS wife accidentally. THis is suppression of the act itself, but it certainly does not explain the test of Sammy’s wife nor his wife asking Lenny for his opinion. It certainly does not explain why Lenny keeps insisting that he never said that Sammy was faking. Above all: if this is true and Lenny did kill his wife with insuline AFTER the attack than how can he remember it?

    I’m convinced Lenny did not kill his wife with insuline, because of the way Teddy pronounces it at the end / beginning. Furthermore, I’m not convinced that Lenny’s wife is dead, only that Lenny thinks she is. You’ve mentioned that we should ignore the car accident mnentioned in the Sammy story. Well, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? This incident is supposed to be kept small and insignificant in order for the suppression to work. We see that everything around Sammy in this story are elements concerning Lenny himself: his wife, her diabetes, him investigating Sammy and above all his denying Sammy the insurance money which corresponds with reality (though a little distorted of course). Even the tests of Sammy correspond with his own experiences in the hospital, though he clearly cannot remember them. So, are we to believe that everything in this story concerns Lenny himself exept the car crash? If Lenny can make himself belief Sammy had a wife (Lenny’s wife), why can’t he not make himself belief that Sammy did get this condition in HIS car accident?

    The question is of course: why does Lenny remember these things (his wife dying and the car accident) in the first place when this Sammy story is meant to suppress just that? I believe that Lenny can’t wipe out his memory of these traumatic things, so he builds a fantastic story around them, thereby making them smaller and change their meanings completely. This way the test of Sammy’s wife is logical: Lenny fabricates his own story so that Sammy / Lenny cannot be blamed for his wife’s death: it was an accident, he could not help it (due to his condition) and it was forced upon him by his wife. You cannot get any further from responsibillity than that. Above all, if Lenny indeed killed his wife by an overdosis of insuline and he was aware of it (which in the case of the attack certainly is not possible) than his try to suppress it isn’t very effective. It would be just a simple shuffling around of the players.

    The only improbable element in this scenario is the police file. This must mean that Teddy himself has written it, which would seem an awful task. My guess is that Lenny himself wrote it. It probably started out as a diary upon advise of his doctors. The main thing that occupied Lenny was the rape and murder of his wife. Notice how much has been crossed out and changed in it. This could easily have been done by Lenny himself, who changed his own memory in order to fit his needs and so did his diary / the police file. Notice that the file seems to be very old and much handled. We never see any tangible evidence of it being a real police file. This would explain why the police did not follow up on the testimony of Lenny, because Lenny wrote it himself! Also, Teddy must have read this file when he was with Lenny. This way he could fit his scheme with the findings within this file.

  202. Michael Butler says:

    Hi Ernie – Hmm, well, most of your concerns about the attack seem to be with the way Chris Nolan wrote the movie and not about whether the attack story itself is plausible.

    Leonard was about to bust blindly in to a crime in progress against his own wife. To suggest that this scene should have been routine if it was to be believable is completely backwards, in my opinion.

    Next, Leonard’s wife wrapped in a shower curtain serves to obscure her nakedness from the audience but also suggests that the attackers planned to dispose of her body.

    Third, the police conclusion must have been that the lone attacker dealt Leonard his head injury and then Leonard got off a lucky shot that killed him before Leonard lost consciousness. I think the police conclusion was wrong but I don’t think it’s impossible to have reached that conclusion given the lack of additional evidence.

    Fourth, Leonard feels responsibility for a lot of reason. He wasn’t there in time to protect his wife from the attackers from the onset. He didn’t check the room for additional attackers so the second one got the jump on him. His condition and inability to get better after the injury required his wife to take care of him rather than the other way around after her attack and rape. This situation made her miserable and frustrated to the point of basically committing suicide at his hand. And, lastly, his condition made him instrumental in that death while remembering none of it. One can say that all of this wasn’t Leonard’s fault but that doesn’t change the huge loss and pain of it, which I think Nolan does a great job of portraying in the story. Any real person would want to change that story in their memory if they had the choice and that’s the point of the end of the movie, not whether Leonard was objectively responsible for his wife’s death.

    I’m not sure which of Teddy’s comments give you doubts about the insulin scene but I think this is intentionally vague so that the viewer has to make a decision about what to believe. Nolan himself has said as much about the ending.

    Nolan has also said that all of the information the audience needs to solve the mystery is presented in the movie. But clearly we need to sift through some contradictions and apply some interpretation in order to do that. I prefer to go with the information Nolan presented rather than disregarding all of it as Leonard’s concocted memories and making up a new story about a car accident :>)

  203. Michael Butler says:

    Also, you mentioned that Leonard’s re-shuffling of the players wasn’t an effective way to suppress his personal memory but a) Leonard had no personal memory of the insulin event to suppress, he chose the shuffled story to commit to memory in order to distance himself from his participation in the event and maintain his commitment to killing the second attacker as the murderer of his wife and b) this shuffled memory was 100% effective. It was only Teddy’s remarks that even cast doubt on it in Leonard’s mind and that’s not the result of the concocted memory itself.

  204. Erniesam says:

    Hi there Michael,
    Just read your comments. This is just a quick response. You asked which of Teddy’s comments gave me doubts about the insuline story. In his talk with Lenny he sums up 4 things that Lenny made up including the insuline. It’s also the way he mentions this, with emphasis on “in.” To me this obviously suggests this insuline story is not true, but a distortion of the truth in Lenny’s mind. Also I think we must assume that Lenny looses his short term memory right after the injury, when he looses consciousness. So, if indeed he inadvertently killed his wife or if she committed suicide, he is not able to remember this.

    You questioned my reasons for not believing the attack story.
    1. You think I believe this situation of this attack ought to be routine for Lenny. I guess I didn’t explain myself as well as I assumed. This situation is anything but routine, of course, since it is in his house and concerns his wife. I’, refering to Lenny’s behavior beforehand, when he gets his gun, checks it and holds it against his shoulder. I can imagine Lenny remebering such a traumatic event, but why should he remember this particular preparation? Hasn’t he done this a hundred times? Why does his memory of the attack include this instance?

    2. To say that the curtain around Lenny’s wife was editorial of nature to ensure to obsure her nakedness. I’m sorry, that just doesn’t jell for me. There are plenty of ways you can film around this nakedness, by showing just a little (her back and head maybe). Hitchcock did it 50 years ago and I believe the censors than were much more strict. Furthermore you say the attackers probably wanted to get rid of the body. Now that doesn’t concur with the rest of the file, which seems to suggest that it were a couple of junkies looking for a quick score. Also. WHY should they hide the body in the first place? He / they wear(s) a mask. Nobody recognized them. If they drag the body with them, they have a much greater chance to be caught. Within the framework of the attack story, the shower curtain doesn’t make any sense.

    3. Lenny could have gotten a lucky shot after his head injury. It’s possible, but not very probable, certainly not a fatal shot. When there is this much doubt about the probabillity of the scenario, certainly the police would have put up a greater effort to investigate. Furthermore, when Lenny was indeed a police investigator, I assume the police would have thought his testimony more believable than they did (despite his condition).

    4. The reasons why Lenny suppressed his memory. You say there are a lot of reasons why Lenny could blame himself. I’m sorry, in this attack story I don’t see strong motives to blame himself personally. What could he have done differently? Waking up earlier? Above all, in the Sammy Jenkis story his wife is still dying. What is the suppression factor if he indeed blames himself for his wife’s death? He makes himself personally responsible for his wife’s death (through Sammy) while in reality he was not in the case of the attack scenario. How can we know how Lenny actually deels about his involvement in the rescue of his wife (or the lack there of) let alone to assume it is the source for his need to suppress it? I think that is a stretch. I can imagine Lenny wanting to change the attack story, but his story involving Sammy Jenkis does make it worse, not better (for Lenny makes himself personally responsible instead of helpless). If the attack story is true, I don’t see the need for the Samy Jenkis story, because it does not help Lenny at all.

    I can understand WHY Lenny needs this attack story: in order for him to be able to get revenge on the second attacker. So, Lenny needs this attack story, while if this story is true, he does not need the Sammy Jenkis story. I agree with you that the car accident does need a bit of stretching concerning the police file, but the attack itself does need more in my opinion. I also agree with you that some things are more logical than others, so you have to weigh those things in order to conclude which one seems to need the less stretching (not in numbers or volume, but in the total weight). To me it is obvious the insuline story is realy fantasy, whereby portion of real life (the diabetes of Lenny’s wife) enters his suppression, like other things he cannot wipe out completely. Of course Lenny would suppress the memory of his wife having diabetes in order to make his suppression story work. This dissociation is essential, because other things Lenny has dissociated from himself also like the condition, him being a police investigator and indeed the car accident. If he acknowledges one dissociation the house of cards could come down.

    So, I find the effectiveness of the suppression more important than what actually is being said (by a highly unreliable Lenny himself).

  205. Michael Butler says:

    1) If the director didn’t show Leonard retrieving the gun and loading it, the scene wouldn’t make sense. This shot has to be shown so the viewer understands Leonard just didn’t wake up with a gun in his hand and head for the bathroom to save his wife.

    2) References to Hitchcock aside, Leonard’s wife was motionless and on the floor. If you can think of better ways to hide her nakedness, that’s great, but Nolan chose the one he chose and it’s obviously done partly to hide her nakedness, not as a clue that she’s not really dead. Placing her death in a car accident wouldn’t make more sense anyway because body bags are not clear.

    3) I agree with you that getting off the kill shot would have been improbable after the injury. That just means the police were wrong – which is Leonard’s position – not that the whole event is fantasy.

    4) Leonard changes the Sammy Jankis story in order to distance himself from the whole post-injury episode, not just because he feels responsibility for his wife’s death. I think you’re focused on the car accident in order to imagine a scenario where Leonard feels more responsibility but a) there’s no evidence support any details of the car accident at all and b) an alternate scenario is not necessary to explain why Leonard would choose to remember his wife dying at someone else’s hand rather than his own.

    I’ll go back and check out what Teddy says in that scene, but I remember his delivery of the word “insulin”. Teddy speaks that way because he’s in the midst of taunting Leonard for “remembering” the Sammy Jankis story incorrectly and purposely so – as someone else’s tragedy rather than his own. Teddy never says nor implies the insulin episode never happened, only that Leonard has changed it in important ways, and presumably over time.

    One question: According to your theory, why would Leonard suppress the memory of his wife’s diabetes if she died in a car accident and the insulin overdose is a completely fabricated story about someone else? Much more likely, in my opinion, that he would suppress the memory of her diabetes *only* if the insulin story were true and actually involved her. I think the movie makes that motivation pretty plain – the only question is whether we believe she had diabetes or not.

  206. Gabe says:

    - the cop was corrupt and in the drug dealing business, that’s for sure. He did nothing after he found out what Lenny just did (killing that guy and taking his car, he knew he could stole it from him later)

    – the cop tried to get him out of the town becouse Lenny was kind of dangerous and seeing what he was capable of finding out (also, he didnt care of keeping a gun or killing that guy and stoling his car?)

    – the cop had a meeting with the drug dealer who probably owned him 200K. The drug dealer said him something like ”so he told you!? I knew I couldn’t trust him!”, he thought that the cop told Lenny about his wife being murdered by him or about being a drug dealer. It wasn’t a Lenny’s bussines to know if he is a drug dealer or not and they both met before. So why was he so much scared about? No flagrant or anything like that to make him so scared, don’t you think? So he was scared for knowing the truth. He wasn’t interested in his money so I pretty much think it was his wife case.

    – the cop told him to note him as Teddy and not by his real name or as lct. or officer. He didn’t want to be exposed.

    – the cop told him once that he is a cop, just one time and that’s happened when he was in real danger. He never told him before/after that.

    – the cop never told him that he killed her wife. he actually tried to fool him at the end of the movie but we can see later (in action) that he gave up to make up that insuline story and let him repeat his ( probably) real story.

    – Lenny remembered very well every time the storry with his wife’s death and details from past (the insuline story)

    – he had the police file of his wife and pretty much investigated it a lot, hard to believe it was a fake. also he spoke with the police and see that they/he don’t want to coaperate and help him (becouse of his disseas or becouse they had the case setteled) He probably spoke with the corrupt cop on telephone and later tattoed himself not to pick up the phone again.

    I believe that one of those guy who raped his wife died in the movie (perhaps the jaguar drug dealer) and probably the corrupt cop has been at least involved in this case as murderer and/or as trying to cover it, see what Lenny describeds at phone that police don’t want to help him becosue they have all the details they need to close the case , so probably setted up by the corrupt cop. It also could be that there were just a random murderes/bulgleres and the cop was trying to hide/protect the case from being reopened. he also tried to get him out of town.

    If he killed her wife with insulin overdose then the police would have suspected him and didn’t let him go so easily so I believe this ain’t true. I mean he killed her wife, he has mental disease and fingerprints on the syringe and just let him go? Don’t make sense. In this case it really doesn’t matter if he got ‘amesia’ from that supposed car accident that the cop tried to make him up.

    Lenny involuntary helped the bar girl, Nataline, to rid of her boyfriend he actually killed guy he killed. Later she wanted to use him to rid of Dodd as well by faking that he beated her.

    The ”funny” thing is that even if he killed the suspects he will probably still hunt someone else thinking that he is just very close. Hard to believe that becouse all of his tattoes don’t indicate any new clue so he might stop as well or be found out as a murderer of the cop + drug dealer.

  207. Roley says:

    Hey guys, there’s like a zillion comments here already, so forgive me if I haven’t read them all, just wanted to add that many explanations would make sense if we didn’t get caught up on the “I did it” bit. I know you can’t just ignore it, it’s not what I’m suggesting. What I’m suggesting is, and sorry if this has been mentioned and discussed, or even accepted as resolution, it’s that the emphasis is not on the I, meaning he’d killed his wife, but on the DID, meaning he’d already managed to kill the killer (at the scene or in a hunt). Although a good counter-argument would be to say that he would’ve tattooed “I’ve done it” to say that, or just “killer’s dead”. So still confused, maybe that’s the ONLY point of the movie, to make sure there is no solution.

  208. Roley says:

    Also, first I thought there was significance to the cop measuring a shoe against his own at the end, but I guess it was because they looked expensive and if the right size he would’ve kept them. Now I wonder why he didn’t point a gun at Lenny and drive away with the money. And his pictures from his pocket.
    Anyway, what I did want to add with this post was, I did not find anything on this page in the comments, nor anywhere else, anything about the flashbacks he has at the end before he kills Jimmy. As he walks through the rooms we see flashes of his wife doing similar movements, as if he were his own wife and the rooms her house. What’s that all about? Probably something basic yet it eludes me right now.

  209. Taylor says:

    Hey Roley,
    The “I did it” tattoo befuddles me not because he meant that he killed his wife, but that he killed the killer… AND HE IS WITH HIS WIFE WHEN WE SEE IT. Yes? That one scene completely upends the movie for me and it’s 3 seconds? I think it means that he got the killer, but it could – if taken literally – mean that his wife survived, that she will be restored to him, he didn’t kill her, etc etc etc. All manner of amazing things. No? That is my Disney Theory that I want so badly to work… Right? Happily Ever After and what not?

    But because that spot is saved for the I Did It tattoo throughout the movie it would have to be AFTER the movie chronology completes that he would be restored to her. No? What am I missing here?

    Taylor

  210. Karina says:

    GUYSSS!! Wait.. I’ve been looking this up like everywhere to see if anyone heard this but I can’t find any results :( On the scene where Sammy’s wife was upset with him cause he couldn’t remember something (idk what) she gave him the note cards, and then she called him Leonard right before the scene ended. Did anyone else catch that??? I’m kind of a Guy Pearce fanatic, so I’ve watched the movie more than 20 times and I just now caught that. Can anyone explain? This is seriously killing me, haha.

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  212. Michael Butler says:

    Karina – that’s interesting but I don’t think it’s clear that Sammy’s wife says, “Leonard”. She’s sobbing.

  213. Thomas says:

    Ok, between seeing the movie once and reading up on it this is my conclusion of the events in chronological order:
    Lenny leads a normal life with his wife
    One attacker nearly kills his wife, but is killed by Lenny who sustains a head injury.
    Lenny loses his short term memory, but his wife is convinced he can still remember.
    Lenny has no system to replace his memory and cannot function.
    In an extreme attempt to make Lenny remember something, she repeatedly asks for insulin.
    As a result, Lenny kills his wife and he spends time in a mental institution where is reminded constantly that he killed his wife.
    He is re-traumatized by this and starts making things up to free him of his guilt. He then builds an intricate story/plan that will make him believe he was uninvolved in his wife’s death. He pretends the original attack killed his wife (so he knows he didn’t), makes up the story of Sammy to distance himself from reality, and he pretends he need to find and kill the perpetrator. He gets tattoos of this false information and runs away from the institution. This all happens in a short period of time in which he keeps this all in mind. He may even know that he is tattooing lies onto himself so he won’t have to deal with what he did.
    Now, with a newfound purpose, Lenny develops a system; one in which he will remember only info critical to finding the killer.
    Teddy the cop finds Lenny and realizes that he can use him to take out criminals by convincing Lenny that each one is the one who killed his wife. Note: it is very unlikely that Teddy used Lenny to kill more than one or two criminals.
    After Lenny kills Jimmy, Teddy confesses to be using Lenny to kill criminals and that they already got the real attacker. In a moment of clarity, like the one Lenny had in the institution, he realizes that for his life to have purpose he must hunt down people he believes killed his wife. Unfortunately, Teddy now wishes for Lenny to know that his wife’s killer is dead, so to conveniently solve both issues, Lenny decides that Teddy will be the next victim of his system.
    *I am not at all sure how Natalie fits into this (mostly because I don’t remember the sequences Natalie was involved in very well) or if she even does. If someone has any ideas I’m all ears.
    * The tattoos in general I think are key here because they all represent things that for Lenny become unchanging. Also, Lenny has facts tattooed (numbered up to 5 or 6 I think) to his body. Anybody know what those were? I feel like those can give us a lot of insight into what is really happening. For example, if the facts are very specific to one “killer” that would suggest that Lenny really is looking for one person, not just a way of copping.

  214. Thomas says:

    Ok, between seeing the movie once and reading up on it this is my conclusion of the events in chronological order:
    Lenny leads a normal life with his wife
    One attacker nearly kills his wife, but is killed by Lenny who sustains a head injury.
    Lenny loses his short term memory, but his wife is convinced he can still remember.
    Lenny has no system to replace his memory and cannot function.
    In an extreme attempt to make Lenny remember something, she repeatedly asks for insulin.
    As a result, Lenny kills his wife and he spends time in a mental institution where is reminded constantly that he killed his wife.
    He is re-traumatized by this and starts making things up to free him of his guilt. He then builds an intricate story/plan that will make him believe he was uninvolved in his wife’s death. He pretends the original attack killed his wife (so he knows he didn’t), makes up the story of Sammy to distance himself from reality, and he pretends he need to find and kill the perpetrator. He gets tattoos of this false information and runs away from the institution. This all happens in a short period of time in which he keeps this all in mind. He may even know that he is tattooing lies onto himself so he won’t have to deal with what he did.
    Now, with a newfound purpose, Lenny develops a system; one in which he will remember only info critical to finding the killer.
    Teddy the cop finds Lenny and realizes that he can use him to take out criminals by convincing Lenny that each one is the one who killed his wife. Note: it is very unlikely that Teddy used Lenny to kill more than one or two criminals.
    After Lenny kills Jimmy, Teddy confesses to be using Lenny to kill criminals and that they already got the real attacker. In a moment of clarity, like the one Lenny had in the institution, he realizes that for his life to have purpose he must hunt down people he believes killed his wife. Unfortunately, Teddy now wishes for Lenny to know that his wife’s killer is dead, so to conveniently solve both issues, Lenny decides that Teddy will be the next victim of his system.
    *I am not at all sure how Natalie fits into this (mostly because I don’t remember the sequences Natalie was involved in very well) or if she even does. If someone has any ideas I’m all ears.
    * The tattoos in general I think are key here because they all represent things that for Lenny become unchanging. Also, Lenny has facts tattooed (numbered up to 5 or 6 I think) to his body. Anybody know what those were? I feel like those can give us a lot of insight into what is really happening. For example, if the facts are very specific to one “killer” that would suggest that Lenny really is looking for one person, not just a way of copping.

  215. Thomas says:

    *Ohhh, and I forgot to mention something fundamental to my theory. I believe that Lenny lost his memory entirely due to the head trauma. He just tells himself that he remembers things from before the accident. The fact is, his “memories” from before the accident about Sammy never happened. In reality the only capacity for memory Lenny is left with are a few memories concerning his wife. He actually can only remember the night his wife is attacked and how he killed his wife with insulin. Both of these memories are still masked (by the Sammy story) and unclear.

    I also apologize for the double post; I don’t know how that happened.

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