Authors, filmmakers, songwriters, composers, artists and journalists. They’re all influences on my writing, but the films of Chris Nolan are some of my major inspirations. I saw his film Memento in a small studio screening ten years ago, with Chris in attendance. He’s British, so instead of the jeans and leather jacket uniform of directors, he wore a suit and an earnest expression. He explained how the idea came from a short story his brother wrote. In the audience Q&A after, while we all sat there shell-shocked, I was dying to raise my hand and tell him how brilliant it was. But I was there as someone’s guest and was afraid I’d embarrass him with my fan-girl gush, so I kept quiet while people asked questions that seemed more accusatory than appreciative.
Later, I watched the film again, of course. You had to, because there are so many layers in this unusual backward format. My friend, a film critic, dismissed it as “gimmicky,” and he was not alone. It opened small, in only eleven theatres across the US. But I knew I had seen an amazing piece of work, a risky story that took a lot of guts to commit to. Yes, it’s told backward, but that form was a perfect way to tell this story of a man with short-term amnesia looking for the killer of his wife. I loved how it played with different levels of reality. Like the main character Leonard, the viewer doesn’t know who to trust. Can you trust Teddy, who says he’s a cop? Or Natalie, who would have good reason to turn on you because you killed her boyfriend?
I also loved Following, his first film, very low budget, shot mostly in his parent’s house. It juggled similar themes of trust and identity. And of course, Inception played with different levels of reality, now questioning whether this life is even real? If you’ve read my book, you know these are themes that intrigue me as well. I like to set up several levels of reality but keeping it as clean and streamlined as possible, giving the illusion of simplicity. In 2011, I saw Chris at the Egyptian Theatre for the ten-year anniversary of Memento. The director Guillermo Del Toro conducted an interview after the film. Gone was the tentative, almost shy Nolan, now replaced by a confident yet thoughtful director. Even though ten years had passed, the film held its power. It was very bit the tightly-wound film noir that it had been the first time around. In fact, it was impressive in its perfection. This time, no one was there to doubt him, because ten years and five more feature films had proven that it was far more than a trick. For just a moment, I was tempted to write this post backwards. But then that would have been a gimmick.
The League of Extraordinary Writers is a group of debut YA authors who write science fiction and dystopian works. The ten of us have works that run the gamut of near-future mind control to far-future space travel, but they do have one thing in common: a future where the Earth we know now is twisted, gone.