At our Brain Injury Support Group picnic last week, my husband sat across the table from one of our members who has problems with his memory – beyond what most of us have. His injury occurred due to pressure from too much spinal fluid. It damaged those inner brain structures related to the formation of new memories. But he is nonetheless a great picnic conversation partner. He and my husband were able to banter away.
Talking about his memory reminded my husband about a movie he had seen a few years ago. Memento, staring Guy Pierce, Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantollanno, is a out-of-time thriller about a man who has a “situation” with his memory, so he needs to write everything down. If not, he has no chance of remembering it in another moment or two.
Now that I’ve seen it, I highly recommend Memento to friends with brain injury and those in the cognitive rehabilitation field. It is such a clear, albeit extreme, illustration of short-term memory loss.
The story is told in flashbacks, overlapping in reverse order from the most recent to the most distant. The character with the “memory issues” writes notes, takes Polaroid pictures, and has himself tattooed with key facts as he searches for the man who murdered his wife and caused him to hit his head and pass out on the bathroom floor. Ever since waking up, this former insurance investigator has been searching for the killer . . . or has he?
Even with such a good “paper trail,” the person with short-term memory loss is bound to make mistakes because that’s the nature of the game. It reminds me of the whisper game that children play, where something whispered by the first child becomes something altogether new in a later interpretation.
To the person with brain injury who lives by notes, beware!
You can watch Memento instantly with Amazon Instant Video. The movie is based on a short story written by the director’s brother. If you prefer to read, the story is available online for free reading.
I love the fact that Memento is a movie about brain injury that isn’t really about the brain injury. It’s about the lead character and the lead character has memory problems. “Brain injury” is downplayed. In fact, the term is only used twice or three times and these mentions are well into the movie.
Yes, I want to raise awareness about brain injury, but being upfront about it isn’t always the most effective way. A good story attracts interest, and the interested viewer – who remembers – will process future information in the light of new awareness.