Second Journal Entry (INTFILO): Understanding Platonic and Buddhist Themes of Memento



Before anything else, we would just like to give a short background about the title of the movie. At first, we all have no idea what would the movie be like or what it is about. At first, we will always wonder about the connection of the title of the movie and its plot.


  –According to, “MEMENTO” is something or anything that will serve as a reminder in order for a person to remember a person or an event from his/her past.




1. What to you are the central themes in Plato’s allegory of the cave?


In the allegory of the cave, there are people who were imprisoned in there and what they can only see were just shadows. These shadows served and were believed as their “reality”. And so, when they were unchained and had the opportunity to see and discover things little by little, they found it hard to adjust and change what they believe in. However, through the process, they still changed their view about the reality. This change in their belief did not just stop there. As one of them dragged out, he now experiences the “real” reality of life, because he had been educated and enlightened by the truth that he saw. It must not be ignored that having such education and enlightenment need to have a person or group of people undergo stages to understand better the “real” reality.

pain, disbelief —> exposure –> EDUCATION

Since what they believe as reality were just shadows manipulated by other set of people, the prisoner experienced pain and disbelief as he saw the actual fire and statues. Of course, it cannot be avoided to experience such difficulty because for the longest time, you believed something that was not really the true reality. However, though he had difficulty in realizing these things, being exposed made the prisoner be educated since he already saw the “real” thing behind those shadows. The exposure would let us widen our minds and see beyond what we usually believe.

freed —> shadows —> reflection —> exposure —-> reality — > ENLIGHTENMENT

As the prisoner dragged out of the cave, he experienced uneasiness as the light shines brightly and what he can only see were ust shadows. Having this experience, he undergoes stages that made him see the “true” reality. From shadows, he now sees reflection and after long exposure, he begin to realize the “real” reality. He attained enlightenment because he was able to see the truth behind those he once believed in through undergoing the different stages or processes.

education + enlightenment = NEW KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING

After gaining such education and enlightenment, we can now create new knowledge and understanding in viewing reality.


We can relate the Plato’s allegory of the cave to the movie “Memento”. In the allegory of the cave, what they believed in, and served as their reality were just shadows. On the other hand, in Memento, Lenny’s reality was based on the Polaroid pictures, notes, statements of Natalie and Teddy, and his own memory.



Statements of Natalie and Teddy


However, we all know that having these things would not be enough for us to believe that it is the “true or real” reality. As being supported by Teddy’s line which will be shown after this part, Lenny cannot trust himself with his little notes and pictures because these can be unreliable, as well as his memories, these will be too unreliable.

“You can’t trust a man’s life to your little notes and pictures”… “because your notes can be unreliable…”…”Memory is unreliable” – Teddy

2. How does mind separate false reality from true reality?

  In our everyday lives, keeping pieces of information in our heads is really important. But how can we know if the information we are getting are real and not just a mere trick of our minds. Some answers that are fairly portrayed in the movie Memento and are also found in Plato’s analogy of “The Cave” are: through the use of [our] senses; doubt; reasons, and; experiences.
     According to, senses are physiological capacities of organisms that provide data for perception. In other words, our senses help us to judge things in accordance to what we perceive. Although we can only trust our senses to give us our own truth because we [humans] tend to choose information and sense things in a way that we think is appropriate for us. That is why scholars thought of it as bias and unreliable when it comes to separating false from true reality.
    The movie Memento provides us with examples on how an individual uses his senses to be the bases of his own true reality, just like Lenny. Within the movie, we see Lenny tried to save his wife from the crime that unfortunately becomes the reason why he had anterograde amnesia (inability to form new memories). Throughout the movie, we see that Lenny uses a Polaroid to capture images of evidences that become his reference of facts. To which we can infer as, his senses given him the basic of true reality, same through with “The allegory of the cave” by Plato, wherein there are prisoners who are living in a cave. These prisoners are shackled by the legs and arms since childhood and they see shadows, which they thought were real, just above the place where they stay. This is where the methods of doubt (doubting everything) by Rene Descartes enters; “when the prisoners are set free from their chains and, along with that, cured of their lack of insight,” (The allegory of the cave, p.3) one of them was able to go out because the man doubted that what they are seeing are real. When he was already outside the cave, he was enlightened and, then, went back inside the cave to free the other prisoners and let them know or experience the outside world. Just the same happened in the movie Memento, where Lenny doubted the things Teddy  told him. He even wrote “Don’t believe his lies” in Teddy’s picture.
    The movie also showed how reasons can separate false reality from true reality. For an instance, Lenny tattooed the facts he gathered, about the rapist/murderer of his wife, all over his body. Through these facts he was able to come to the conclusion that the rapist/murderer was John G. /Teddy. Albeit, his conclusion was wrong because of the effect of his condition, we can infer that reasons or the knowledge of someone about something still can help an individual separate
false from true reality. And with the help of experiences, it will make separating things more easily for the reason that:
    Empirical social research cannot evade fact that all the given factors investigated, the subjective no less than the objective relations, are mediated through society. The given, the facts which in accordance with its methods, it encounters as something final, are not themselves final but are rather conditioned.(Quote from Sociology and Empirical Research)
True Reality: There is no permanence, it is the real lives we face with
Relating this to the movie, it would be Lenny’s story.
False Reality: If it is permanence, it is an illusion, the things showcased to us in public
In the example of Memento, it is Sammy Jankins. People choose to ignore and deny the truth, they have their own distorted truth and recreate the significant memory.

3. The movie closes with Lenny saying, “We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are. I’m no different.” Lenny’s “mirrors” were his memory devices. What sort of “mirrors” do people with normal memories rely on to remind themselves who they are?


A picture of a significant event or loved one could remind us of our own personality.


They rely on their personal experiences to remind themselves who they are. These experiences allow oneself to mold their personality.

 People – Family, Friends

People around us are the witnesses of our daily lives. People, specifically family and friends, since they are the ones who are around us more and much more aware of our own lives. Since, family is there beside an individual during his/her growth years; and friends are the ones we are constantly with. Though, these people are not limited to our family and friends, they are more reliable than strangers we passed by everyday in our lives. For the reason that, we interact more with our family and friends which gives us more memories with them.



For the places and events, there would be memories stored in a particular place and event. Since, significant occurrence and experiences were made at that places or event. For example, when an individual passed by into a place that s/he visited once and something really important happened at the place, when the time comes s/he would pass by the same place again, moments during the last time s/he were there would be recalled but the details that would be recalled would depend on the significance and importance of it to the person.

4. When Lenny jots down Teddy’s license number, he asks: “Do I lie to myself to be happy? In your case, Teddy…yes, I will”. What does that say about truth?

Truth can be manipulated or distorted according to the person.

Analyzing what Lenny said about Teddy, it could be inferred that Lenny chose to have his own reality and continue on his false quest to avenge his wife’s death. For some psychological reason it greatly appeals to him that he should continue confusing himself round and round in circles and to deceive himself too. Thus, truth is always something people want, but in the end, it depends on the person to believe it himself.

Truth is achievable and it is the path for enlightenment and knowledge.

According to Plato, truth is deemed essential because it gives us knowledge and discovery. Truth represents the totality of the world. It is now the task of the person to gain wisdom, which corresponds to thought, reality, and sense experience. That is why Lenny had a hard time grasping his situation, because he fails to acknowledge the wisdom presented to him. Truth has been offered to him, but he chose to stay in his dark cave and deceive himself even further.

There are materials people use to identify truth.

In the movie Memento, Lenny used a system, writing, that is, in which he takes notes to help him remember the facts he needs for his wife’s revenge. But then again, are these notes completely reliable? Do they present real meaning? Note that when having these sets of texts, one needs to understand and remember the context of these first before taking them into consideration. That is why he fails to establish his truth most of the time, because he cannot remember the context of these notes. Moreover, memory is also used to establish facts as well as distort them; it could be reliable for establishing truth and at the same time not because, as said in the first point, it depends on the person handling these memories. He may choose to suppress them, just like Leonard in the movie.

Truth is perceived by senses and emotions.

According to Plato, the natural world is perceived through the sense reveals only a fallen or a complete version of the ideal truth.

 In the end, we all came down to the same question: what is truth and what is the basis for truth?

In conclusion, if truth varies from different people, each having their own set of truths to believe in, what really is truth? How do we know if a certain thing is true? There is truth in numbers, in mathematics and in accurate sciences, but one realization that came to mind is how to we establish our own truth if it could be altered by our own memories?

5. Discuss how Lenny’s actions follow closely to the 4 noble truths or all of them.

Leonard ‘Lenny’ Shelby is a human who encountered different obstacles and sufferings in his life.  His beloved wife was raped and strangled by two anonymous men and while attempting to strike the devils, Lenny was injured and his head immensely bled. The second noble truth is attachment and Lenny cannot just accept that his wife was dead, he wanted to do something about it. Another suffering that he bumped into was how the police reacted to his story. They didn’t believe in some parts of his story because of his sensitive condition. Likewise, he has no idea on how to swallow the reality when he possessed anterograde amnesia, depriving him the ability to treasure fresh information and bequeathing him crucial time to adjust with his new life. In order to give justice to his wife and to eliminate the cause of his suffering, He has one mission to accomplish: to hunt down John G. and victor revenge for his deceased wife. Through the use of notes, Polaroid photos and tattoos, Lenny drives the straight path leading to the truth behind the mysterious and thrilling murder. John Edward ‘Teddy’ Gammell, the undercover officer who played protagonist in Lenny’s investigation was believed to be the murderer. But in the end, it was revealed that Lenny is just his own enemy. There was an attempt to detach himself by burning his wife’s things and to forget her, but his willingness to puzzle himself went far greater and so his suffering never ceased.



Faulkner, J. (2003). Does Philosophy Meet Film in Plato’s Cave? Or at the Pharmacy? Reflections on Memento. Retrieved from website,

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