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I've watched Memento quite a few times. I feel for the most part that I understand it, while most people don't. I’ve seen people go as far as to say that Lenny is Sammy Jankins which is impossible. But my interpretation is:

Since Lenny applied what happened to his wife in the story of Sammy Jankins, then obviously he has to be capable of making memories after the accident or he wouldn't know all of these details thus making Lenny's condition psychological not physical and he just lies to himself to relieve his guilt and continues to believe it's physical for the same reason.

But what I don’t get is the scene at the end where he's in bed with his wife and it shows his "I've done it" tattoo. So if his wife was alive to obviously see that tattoo what was his motive to kill him? And why is the tattoo not shown throughout the movie? Unless Lenny's wife didn’t actually die and he broke the cycle and got back with her or unless he got it removed to continue this cycle. But that doesn’t explain why his wife is alive while he has this tattoo. Can anyone explain this to me?

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This is really a question that I haven't figured out till now. Bajur's comment is really interesting because I didn't pay attention to the fact that in the picture Teddy shows to Lenny, he pointed his finger at the chest, which is the place where he has the tattoo "I've done it". So why don't we see any tattoo before the whole movie. At first I thought like most ppl that it's just a false flashback Lenny make up for himself. But the more I think the more it gets complicated. Another point is the role of Natalie is not quite clear. –  thai lam Nov 17 '14 at 3:36

9 Answers 9

Lenny is ostensibly suffering from a form of Anterograde amnesia, but as far as I'm aware this is never explicitly confirmed.

Whether you believe that Lenny is Sammy Jankins, whether Sammy Jenkins actually exists or whether Lenny has projected aspects of his personal history onto Sammy is irrelevant: the important thing to take away from Lenny's stories is that he is an unreliable narrator, and his perspective is untrustworthy.

What we can take from this is that Lenny's 'flashbacks' are distortions of his own personal history, and as such do not necessarily have to conform to the rules of narrative logic.

The memories he 'creates' are part of a coping mechanism he seems to have developed as a way of dealing with the trauma of Whatever really happened, between him and his wife.

As you identified, the 'impossible tattoo' is just that: impossible. It's part of his fantasy.

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Thanks i never really thought of it like that. You and Ankit Sharma seem to have a better grasp on the story then pretty much the whole internet! –  Nick S Jan 27 '14 at 22:26
@NickS, no worries Nick, that's what makes this site so much better than all the wiki's out there: you can just ask a question as a human being and get an answer from another human! Who knew open communication would be so helpful?!?! :) –  John Smith Optional Jan 27 '14 at 22:28

I think the "I'VE DONE IT" tattoo is an important plot point and maybe even the climax of the movie. Its appearance is a sign Lenny realizes -- if only for a moment, before his next memory lapse -- that he has found a way to get some vengeance and also end his run of murders.

Lenny has just written himself a note to get a tattoo of Teddy's license plate number. He does this to punish Teddy because Teddy has just confessed to using Lenny. Lenny knows he himself will soon forget the confession and everything else that just happened. So Lenny decides to sentence Teddy to death, by getting a tattoo of Teddy's license plate, which later will make forgetful-Lenny think Teddy is John G.

The image of the "I'VE DONE IT" tattoo depicts Lenny just after writing the note to himself about Teddy's license plate -- briefly savoring a moment of victory in the form of a quick day-dream where he is with his wife, laying in bed, a proclamation of victory freshly inked on his chest.

Immediately after the appearance of the image with the "I'VE DONE IT" tattoo, Lenny's memory resets. Lenny is sitting there, having forgotten everything that just happened in the previous 5 minutes or so -- but holding that fateful note about Teddy's license plate, which will indeed lead Lenny to eventually kill Teddy, giving him vengeance and presumably ending his string of murders.

See for yourself: watch the scene again.

23 Dec 2014 EDIT: As mentioned in Bajur's answer, there is a mid-movie scene where Natalie is touching a blank spot on Lenny's chest, right where the "I'VE DONE IT" tattoo would be, and asks "And what about here?" Lenny answers : "Maybe it's for when I find him." I think that dialogue shows Lenny was saving the spot on his chest for when he catches the man he is looking for -- confirming that the moment where he "sees" himself with the "I'VE DONE IT" tattoo in that spot is a moment when he knows he has accomplished his goal.

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I had forgotten about those flashes with his wife and the tattoo. Given that the previous flashbacks were in black & white, he doesn't have that tattoo in any other part of the movie--many of which happen later in real time--and that he sees that vision while closing his eyes, I think he's imagining it--not remembering. –  David Harkness May 18 '14 at 1:46
Side note about David Harkness's comment: The previous flashbacks about his wife during the color sequences weren't in black-and-white; they were in color. (And some of them happen with his eyes closed, especially the ones when he's talking to Natalie in the diner.) We have seen that his memories of that time are unreliable, though; in particular, we see him pinch her in one flashback and poke her with a needle in another. –  Jed Hartman Sep 29 '14 at 2:30

We never see "I've done it" tattoo before that scene. Its like a conflicted memory to me. I mean their is no time travel in the film and he doesn't have the tattoo in present of previous flashback. So new flashback with that tattoo seems to be effect of Teddy's conversation with him, which might made Leonard doubt his own life.

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check out the 35:29 min of the film , while natalie was touching lenny's chest she asks : and what about here ? lenny answers : maybe its for when i find him

you can clearly see a somewhat of a strange volume in his chest , note that it is in the exact place of his "i've done it" tatto and thats also the place where hes pointing out in that picture teddy took of him when he killed the real john G...

not sure if its important of not but i find it strange that i never saw anyone speaking about this scene, go look at it in youtube or something , not sure if it will be at 35:29 min but its in that scene lenny shows a picture of dodd to natalie and he then steps into her house (in the film is just after the scene where he wakes up in her room , in the chronological order its after he solves the whole dodd problem) btw english is not my mother language so be patient about my grammar.

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+1 Definitely an important detail. I hope you don't mind: I'm going to incorporate this into my answer on this page. –  Shiz Z. Dec 23 '14 at 16:53

I'm so tired of people saying "he just gets it removed- simple as that"

Have you ever seen the result of a removed tattoo?? It's not pretty, and it can take dozens of sessions to remove a tat, and even then there is almost always residual scarring or discoloration.

We would definitely be able to tell if he had removed it.

The whole reason Nolan uses tattoos is their permanence.

I think the image of him with his wife is a fantasy- none of the tats are ever removed.

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That's just a day dream. I think he has it on his chest because he just looked at the photo of him pointing to his chest and Teddy just told him they already killed the second attacker (which that truth is up in the air). He is enjoying the momentary victory, revenge, before he forgets all that he has learned, which happens as soon as he sees the tattoo parlor, hence looking at the note card.

As for the him not being Sammy Jankins, I would like to you pause your movie at 1:30:03. You will notice that Sammy is looking at the doctor that passes between the camera and himself, when the doctor clears the screen it is Lenny sitting in the chair at the mental institute for a split second before it cuts back to him on a phone. This scene is before any mention of him being Sammy by Teddy.

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Actually its possible to fit it into the timeline of the movie

His wife survives the initial accident but he gets separated from her. He goes on a quest to find the supposed killer and gets the tattoos we see throughout the movie

He kills the person and gets the I've done it tattoo. His wife finds him later and they live together again as seen briefly. He puts her in a coma with the insulin but he can't take what he's done so he gets the tatoo removed so he can get lost in his quest to find the murderer again

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Teddy helps him kill the actual "2nd man" and he does in fact get his "I did it" tattoo before he od'd his wife on insulin (if this even happened since we know Teddy is not adverse to lying to Lenny). Maybe the tattoo is there when Natalie points to it. He's telling her he's going to kill the guy and she's saying "what about this?" but when he says maybe I'm saving it for after, because he doesn't WANT in to be there, she just shrugs it off as more craziness. It makes a lot of sense, because there are plenty of blank spots she could have pointed to so why that one, specifically? It doesn't make sense because I'm pretty sure the "John G raped and murdered my wife" tat is there when his wife is looking at the "I did it" tattoo... Thoughts?

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I think there are 3 possible theories, considering the objective truths that Nolan presents us (specially in the end of the movie).

1st (Lennys theory) - His wife was raped and murdered by John G and the story that Lenny tells about Sammy is true.

2nd (Teddys theory) - His wife was raped and survived the accident. Lenny got his amnesia and his wife tested him with the insulin shots. Lenny kills her with the shots. Lenny and Sammy are the same person (proved by the Sammy/Lenny hospital scene).

3rd (Wife + I've done it tatoo)- Lenny always says that his last memory was of his wife dying but he never saw her dead... She could still be alive and for a brief period could have lived whit Lenny while he was in search of John G. She could have accepted his thirst for revenge as long as it would stop with the killing of John G. The "I've done it" tattoo would be a reminder to Lenny that his search was over and he could finally live with his wife peacefully (they were both relaxing in bed with lenny's body full of tattos, including the "I've done it" one) ...When she realized that Lenny would not stop, she left him. I know that he doesn't have the tatto any more but for the sake of this theory let's say that he removed it xD

The last one is a little far fetched but at least can explain the I've done it bed scene.

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