Abracadabra: Language, Memory, Representation


Rashoman and Memento.


  • Structure of the film is narrations inside narrations:
    • A. the film itself
      • 1. the woodcutter tells the stories of the testimonies (and his own).
        • a. Tajomaru tells his story
        • b. the Woman tells her story
        • c. the Medium tells the Man's story
      • 2. The woodcutter tells a different story.
  • Is this a film about memory, imagination, lying? Who is most trustworthy and why?
  • Each character wants to take responsibility; each reads the motives of the others differently.
    • Tajomaru says the Woman loves him, and that she orchestrates the murder of the husband ("To have two men know my shame is impossible.")
    • The Woman says the Man forsakes her and that in a rage, she kills him.
    • The Man says the Woman forsakes Him, and he kills himself as a result.
    • The woodcutter claims the Man forsakes the Woman, the Woman forsakes the Man and Tajomaru, and the two men fight to the death. But the woodcutter is self-interested, and has already told a different story to the court.
  • Tajomaru says "blame the wind."


An article relating the structure of the film in detail is avaible at Salon Magazine.

Some aspects of the film

  • film plays "backwards"
    • actually only the beginning is backwards. the rest is simply five minute chunks that precede each other in time.
  • color vs. black and white
  • the 'system'
    • polaroids, notes, documents, tatoos
  • Sammy Jankis:
    • mental or physical ilness?
    • faking, lying, or real?
    • who is Sammy Jankis?
  • Is Leonard in the asylum? an escapee?
  • Who manipulates who? Why is Leonard perfect for this?
  • grief and vengence
    • consider Leonard in light of Carruthers' explanation of memory. What parts are 'inventory' and what parts res? For someone who sets himself up to kill someone who has just told him that he has already achieved vengeance, what kind of 'imagination' is necessary? Is it even possible?
Christopher M. Kelty
Last modified: Mon Mar 3 09:51:02 CST 2003