Momento: Two Opposite Homogeneous Tracks

As for my practice project, I decide to draw a scene for the picture book. Part of the illustration might involve a series of actions, more likely a series of shutter speed effect. And probably two series of actions take place simultaneously. This somehow reminds me one of my favorite movies — Momento.

Momento became one of my favorites ever since watched it in Singapore in 2003, and I turned out a Christopher Nolan’s fan. I decide to watch it the second time not only to study its unconventional story line and editing, but also its fundamental structure. The story is about how a guy, who lost his short-term memory, get his revenge by using notes and tattoos. It’s a brilliant story telling with adopting nonlinear narrative structure. We tend to follow the exciting journey of protagonist Leonard Shelby to hunt down his wife’s murderer, from his puzzle-liked trails. However, my focus here is to study/review this movie from the perspective of Gestalt laws.


Fig. 1. Christopher Nolan, Momento, 2000.

What made this movie interesting and unique perhaps is the articulation of its concept and experimental movie editing. The editing style brings audience close through experiencing Shelby’s loose pieces of memories. Two sequences interweave with each other: a colour, backward sequence ranged from the ending to the middle part of the story line, in a reverse chronological order (Fig. 1); yet another black and white, forward sequence ranged from beginning to the ending, in a chronological order (Fig. 2). The audience is able to understand the whole story line by combining both backward and forward orders.

Fig. 2. Christopher Nolan, Momento, 2000.

According to Max Wertheimer’s ‘Laws of Organization in Perceptual Form’, the elements appears in homogeneous similarity is perceived as a grouped organization ( Wertheimer, 1923, 301). That’s why by refering law of sumilarity, we could perceive all the colour clips as 2 homogenous groups: one backward sequence whereas all the black and white clips are perceived as one group. Except of their homogeneous similarity, we still be able recognize them as different directional two tracks. According to the law of common fate, the two opposite orientation of clips perceptually impress us with their grouping attribute. The diagram that I drawn below (Fig. 3) shows the opposite directional movement of the two homogeneous groups. Refer to ‘Gestalt Theory’ (Wertheimer, 1924, p. 2), only through watching both of opposite sequences, we can understand the whole story of Momento better.

Fig. 3. A simple diagram showing opposite directional movement of two homogeneous groups, drawn on 14 Dec 2013

This type of nonlinear narrative structure might be a very reference for my practice assignment. It will be a good idea in using two different series of directional movement to articulate my concept.

Wertheimer, Max (1923) Laws of Organization in Perceptual Forms. Untersuchungen zur Lehre von der Gestalt 2 (4), 301-350, available at (visited 15/10/13)

Wertheimer, Max (1950) ‘Gestalt Theory’, in Ellis, Willis (ed.) A Source Book of Gestalt Psychology. New York: The Humanities Press


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