The ink of the real
Memory and identity in Christopher Nolan’s Memento
in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives
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In Christopher Nolan’s noir film Memento, Leonard’s tattoos rationalise his crime(s). They exemplify what Slavoj Žižek terms 'ideological fantasy', which 'consists in overlooking the illusion which is structuring our real, effective relationship to reality' and allows individuals to rationalise beliefs and behaviours through intentional self-deception. Previously depicted as an ‘regular Joe’, a man operating in the criminal milieu in order to avenge the brutalisation of his wife, Leonard’s character is radically reinscribed through the film. This chapter’s focus on whether Leonard suffers from retrograde or anterograde amnesia is instructive here. A detailed examination of Leonard’s medical condition introduces significant doubt as to who the criminals are in Memento as the viewer is forced to question the host of tattoos already on Leonard that he refers to as 'The Facts'. This chapter explores the cultural conflation of tattoos and crime in Memento, and examines the intersections of tattoos and psychological permanence relative to the body as a locus of ideological identity and truth.

Editors: Kate Watson and Katharine Cox


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